* Inspectors warned dust levels may pose health risk
* Barrick says earth-moving work halted on Oct. 27
* Gold mine project has suffered numerous setbacks
SANTIAGO, Nov 10 Barrick Gold Corp, the world's
biggest gold producer, said on Saturday it had halted
earth-moving works at its Pascua Lama mine on the
Chile-Argentina border following concerns about the health of
workers at the site high in the Andes.
Inspectors from the Chilean Mining Ministry's Sernageomin
geology unit ordered the suspension of excavation works at the
site on the grounds that excessive dust might pose a health
risk, La Tercera newspaper reported.
The newspaper said all construction work at the site had
been suspended, but Barrick said later that the order from
officials applied only to earth-moving operations and that other
construction activities continued.
"We voluntarily decided to stop earth-moving work, including
pre-stripping activities, on Saturday, Oct. 27," the company
said in a statement, adding that measures had been put in place
in an effort to resolve the dust problem.
"These decisions were made prior to the notification we
received from the authorities on Oct. 31," it added, without
saying how long the disruption could last.
No one at Sernageomin could immediately be reached to
The delay to work at the site is the latest in a series of
setbacks at the vast mine.
Earlier this month, Barrick again raised its cost estimate
for building the mine to between $8 billion and $8.5 billion
from an earlier budget of $7.5 billion to $8 billion. It also
pushed back the date when production at the project will begin.
The company blamed the increase on delays and higher labor
and project-management costs.