SANTIAGO Oct 11 A Chilean appeals court has
agreed to examine a new appeal against Barrick Gold Corp's
suspended Pascua-Lama gold mine that alleges the
project is hurting the environment and the quality of life for
the local population.
The country's Supreme Court and environmental regulator have
already frozen construction of the mine because of "significant
environmental harm." The suspension is poised to be lifted once
a water management system is complete.
But the new appeal charges that the mine engaged in "illegal
and arbitrary acts," referring to the "installation, execution
and realization of works and activities ... that were not
authorized by the environmental regulator (SMA)."
The legal action, presented by lawyer Barbara Salinas, seeks
a new freeze on Pascua-Lama.
The local Antofagasta Court of Appeals will study the
appeal, a spokesman for Chile's court system said on Friday. It
was not yet clear when it might issue a decision or how it might
Salinas told Reuters it was tricky to predict when a ruling
might be issued but that she expected it "as soon as possible."
Toronto-based Barrick declined to comment.
The latest action against the $8.5 billion project,
originally forecast to produce 800,000 to 850,000 ounces of gold
a year, came just weeks after the Supreme Court rejected a move
to strike down the mine's environmental permit.
A group of indigenous Chileans had asked the top court to
rescind Barrick's license, arguing that environmental damage
from the mine, which straddles the Chilean and Argentine border,
warranted a re-evaluation of the project.
Pascua-Lama's supporters say its environmental impact will
be limited and that the massive mine will provide employment and
help boost copper powerhouse Chile's mining-dependent economy.
Environmental and social groups counter that the mega-mining
project will damage pristine glaciers, strain and pollute the
water supply and harm agricultural activity in the area.
Barrick has stopped construction on the project and
submitted a plan for water management infrastructure to the SMA.
The miner said in June that Pascua-Lama, on which it has already
spent $5.4 billion, had been delayed until mid-2016.