Chilean environmental authority Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente (SMA) announced on May 24 that it was fining Barrick Gold about $16 million for violations of Chilean environmental regulations at the company’s cross-border Chile/Argentina Pascua-Lama gold-silver project and ordered a halt to construction in Chile until all requirements of the project’s environmental permit are satisfied. The fine was the maximum permitted under Chilean law.

Barrick had previously announced on April 10 that it had suspended construction on the Chilean side of Pascua-Lama while it addressed environmental and other regulatory requirements to the satisfaction of Chilean authorities (E&MJ, May 2013, p. 14). The SMA resolution does not apply to project development activity on the Argentinian side of the border.

Wastewater management, downstream water contamination and environmental reporting were key issues in the SMA resolution. Construction at the project cannot resume until Barrick has built a wastewater management system to the specifications of its permit.

The May 24 SMA announcement cited five specific violations of environmental requirements at Pascua-Lama. The announcement also stated that Barrick had reported some of its environmental failures but that investigation by the agency’s inspectors found that Barrick’s disclosures were not entirely correct, truthful or verifiable.

Barrick acknowledged receipt of the SMA resolution, reported that it was reviewing the resolution in detail, and said it was fully committed to complying with all aspects of the resolution and to operating at the highest environmental standards.