Argentina Supreme Court to hear case on Barrick Veladero mine

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A federal court in Argentina has ruled that the country’s Supreme Court should take up a case related to a government request to suspend operations at Barrick Gold Corp’s Veladero mine, a court filing showed.

Argentina’s environment ministry in April asked a federal court to suspend operations at Veladero until Barrick can guarantee there will be no environmental damages following a spill of cyanide solution in March, its third such incident in 18 months.

The filing, dated Monday, did not give a time frame for the pending decision. A Supreme Court spokeswoman said on Tuesday that it had no deadline to reach a verdict.

A Barrick spokesman declined to comment.

Following the March incident, a court in San Juan province - where the mine is located - suspended some activities at Veladero. Those restrictions were recently lifted after the company changed its local management and applied a reform plan that was reviewed and approved by provincial authorities.

That had no bearing on the national government’s request. A resolution from the federal court responsible for the case said the Supreme Court should resolve the conflict over whether the national court has jurisdiction over the case. Regulating mining activity is normally the responsibility of provincial governments.

“We are very respectful of the decision the Court will make. But we hope that it recognizes our right to make legal claims in the collective interests of all society,” said Juan Trebino, subsecretary of environmental inspection and control in the Environment Ministry.

Veladero is the largest gold mine in Argentina and Barrick’s third-largest mine, but its persistent operating mishaps has generated unease among investors.

Last week, a Barrick executive said was confident Veladero would meet its production goals for the year, and named a new executive director for the mine. Barrick sold a 50 percent stake in the mine to China’s Shandong Gold in April.

Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Richard Chang