Chile Pascua-Lama construction could resume at end of 2013 -report
SANTIAGO, May 10 (Reuters) - Construction of Barrick Gold Corp's suspended Pascua-Lama mine project could resume at the end of the year if the company shows authorities it can turn around the troubled operation, a Chilean mining ministry official was quoted as saying on Friday. However, the Pascua-Lama cases are in the hands of Chile's judiciary and its newly created environmental regulator, not the mining ministry. A Chilean court in April temporarily halted the up-to-$8.5 billion gold mine, which straddles the border of Chile and Argentina, to weigh claims by indigenous communities it has damaged pristine glaciers and harmed water supplies. Additionally, Chile's environmental regulator charged the unpopular project with violating the terms of its environmental license, citing harm to the water supply and nearby pastures due to faulty infrastructure. "I don't have any doubt that if (the project) wins the trust of authorities and presents compliance plans in the right manner, this (suspension) should be overcome," Julio Poblete, the head of the Chilean Mining Ministry's Sernageomin regulator unit, was quoted as saying in the Friday edition of the daily La Tercera. The Sernageomin in November halted earth-moving work at Pascua-Lama mine over concerns that excessive dust could harm workers' health. Chile's environmental regulator will likely rule on the case in late May or early June. The regulator just started operating in December, and it is unclear what kind of sanctions it is likely to apply, though it has the power to revoke environmental permits. Barrick has told the environmental regulator that it accepts "most of the charges" made against it. The Copiapo Court of Appeals is expected to rule around the end of the year. The miner has said re-activating the project is its No. 1 priority. In recent weeks it has shaken up management of the mine and said it is determined to meet environmental standards. But many experts say the unpopular project faces an uphill battle in Chile, the world's No. 1 copper producer, where several mega mining and power projects have faced setbacks in recent months. Many in the economically stratified country feel the mining boom has bypassed them and hurt the environment.
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