Barrick Gold Corp. representatives are in talks with China’s Zijin Mining Group Co. concerning a partnership involving the Canadian miner’s mothballed $8.5 billion Pascua-Lama project, according to a government source in Argentina. Barrick is the world’s No. 1 gold miner.

In a local radio interview reported by IKN and cited by Canada’s Financial Post, Felipe Saavedra, the mining minister of San Juan province, said officials at the Chinese state-owned miner had expressed interest after visiting the project multiple times. Toronto-headquartered Barrick declined immediate comment.

Zijin has been named a potential buyer of other Barrick mines in media reports; Barrick Chairman John Thornton has ties to Asian markets and has openly discussed partnerships with Chinese miners.

In Q3 2013, Barrick booked a $5.1 billion write-down after the Pascua-Lama asset, straddling the Argentinian-Chilean border high in the Andes, was shelved following concerns by Chile regulators over water management. Cash-strapped Barrick had said it wants to re-start the operation pending improved market conditions; construction first began in 2009.