(Adds comment from Barrick spokesman, San Juan official)
BUENOS AIRES/TORONTO, June 15 (Reuters) - Authorities in the Argentine province of San Juan lifted restrictions on leaching operations at Barrick Gold Corp’s Veladero mine on Thursday, but the world’s biggest gold producer said it would not immediately resume full operations.
Judge Pablo Oritja told a radio station that he understood Barrick had finished all required work, following its third cyanide spill in 18 months, and had ordered an end to restrictions put in place in late March.
Barrick will not begin adding cyanide until it has completed the ramp up of a new system and verified all elements are ready for normal operations, in keeping with a plan the miner submitted to regulators, said spokesman Andy Lloyd.
The mine will likely be fully operating in one month, Eduardo Machuca, San Juan province’s secretary of environmental management and mining control, told Reuters.
“They have a program to slowly increase production ... there is a specific plan of 30 days,” he said in a phone interview.
The addition of cyanide to Veladero’s leach pad processing operation was suspended and Barrick told to overhaul environmental practices and operations at the mine following a March 28 spill, when a pipe carrying cyanide solution failed.
Barrick slashed its forecast for Veladero output and hiked its estimated production costs in April.
It also lowered its forecast for total 2017 gold production in the first quarter, largely reflecting the sale of a 50-percent stake in Veladero to Shandong Gold Mining Co Ltd for $960 million.
Veladero is Argentina’s largest gold mine and one of Barrick’s five core mines. (Reporting by Luc Cohen, Juliana Castilla, Nicolas Nisculin, Maximilian Heath in Buenos Aires and Susan Taylor in Toronto; editing by Dan Grebler and Marguerita Choy)
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