Barrick taps two new execs for troubled Pascua-Lama project
* Pascua-Lama suspended by Chile court last week * Barrick says Pascua-Lama No. 1 global priority * Ex heads of Antofagasta, El Morro join project SANTIAGO, April 16 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp said on Tuesday it has tapped two high-profile mining executives to work on its suspended Pascua-Lama gold and silver mine project as it seeks to meet Chilean regulatory requirements to re-activate the project. Industry veteran Marcelo Awad, formerly the head of Chilean miner Antofagasta Minerals, has been named deputy director and will be in charge of advising the company on regulation and government relations. Eduardo Flores, the former general manager of Goldcorp Inc's suspended El Morro project, will become Pascua-Lama's senior vice-president. He will be the company's representative to local and national authorities, Barrick added in its statement. A Chilean court last week suspended construction of Barrick's up to $8.5 billion project, which straddles the border of Chile and Argentina, in a major blow to the world's top gold miner. The unpopular project is facing steep legal challenges and potentially the cancellation of its permit on grounds it destroys pristine glaciers and harms water supply. Barrick said on Tuesday the project is its "No.1 global priority." The announcement of another management shake-up is in line with the top gold miner's aim of "taking all the necessary steps to advance in an appropriate fashion on the Chilean side of the project," it added. Barrick shook up the management team at Pascua-Lama last year as the project's costs mounted. Mining experts have flagged poor management of the tricky, high-altitude project as a key issue, and many are hoping another change will help turn the project around. Awad left Antofagasta Minerals last year. Analysts speculated at the time the departure was related to Esperanza's troubled ramp-up, but the company attributed the change to a shift to a new generation of growth projects that required new leadership. Awad will report directly to Barrick CEO Jamie Sokalsky, the company said in its statement. The $3.9 billion El Morro copper-gold mine, where Flores used to work, saw its environmental permit struck down last year at the request of an indigenous agricultural community. Flores was also involved in the Tethyan Copper Co joint venture between Antofagasta and Barrick, which seeks to develop a $3.3 billion copper-gold deposit in Pakistan. Development of the project has been on hold since 2011, when the Baluchistan government rejected Tethyan's application for a mining license. Mega mining and energy investments have suffered major legal setbacks in top copper producer Chile recently, as environmental and health concerns grow and gain traction in courts. Many in the stratified country say the copper boom has not been fairly shared and has harmed the environment.
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