Barrick Gold has received a U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Record of Decision (ROD), effective March 15, 2011, approving the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for its Cortez Hills mine in Nevada. Cortez Hills, which started up in early 2010, had been operating since April 2010 under a tailored injunction granted by the U.S. District Court. Under the injunction, Barrick did not ship a portion of Cortez Hills ores off site for processing while the SEIS was being prepared, and mine dewatering (groundwater pumping) was limited to rates and volumes allowed under permits granted prior to the 2008 approval of the Cortez Hills project.
The ROD removed these restrictions and enabled the operation to revert to its original scope.
Barrick began construction of the Cortez Hills project in late 2008, following BLM approval of the company’s plan of operations. Soon thereafter, a coalition of three environmental activist groups and two Western Shoshone Tribes asked the District Court to stop the project. The court denied the request after a January 2009 hearing. A subsequent appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals resulted in a December 2009 opinion that remanded the case back to the District Court with an order to impose “appropriate injunctive relief.” Barrick and the BLM, co-defendants in the case, requested an “appropriately-tailored injunction” that would allow mining to continue at Cortez while the SEIS ordered by the 9th Circuit was prepared. That request was granted, and work on the SEIS was completed and approved as noted above.
Barrick’s Cortez property includes the Pipeline open-pit, the Cortez Hills open-pit and the Cortez Hills underground mines. The entire property is expected to produce 1.3 million to 1.45 million oz of gold in 2011 at total cash costs of $234 to $265/oz.