Barrick's Argentina mine suspended after cyanide spill

TORONTO (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp said on Thursday that operations at its Veladero mine in Argentina were temporarily suspended by the government after a “small quantity” of processing solution that contains cyanide leaked outside a processing area.

The solution flowed over a berm surrounding the leach pad where gold is processed after a pipe was damaged on Sept. 8 by a large block of ice that rolled down a valley slope, Barrick said.

The affected ground and other material was collected and returned to the pad, said Barrick spokesman Andy Lloyd. “We are working with authorities to confirm the volume estimate,” he said.

There is no material impact expected on the mine’s operational forecast, Barrick said in a statement. The Toronto-based company has forecast annual output of 580,000-640,000 ounces of gold.

Barrick said it will start work on Thursday with authorities from San Juan province to confirm the facility’s safety.

No solution from the pipe reached any water diversion channels or water courses, and the impacted area has been remediated, the company said. The incident posed no threat to the health of workers, communities or the environment, it added.

Last year, Barrick was forced to temporarily stop pumping cyanide solution used in the leaching process at Veladero after a spill in September. Tests later showed that the spill, caused by a defective valve, did not contaminate local water supplies.

Additional reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Jeffrey Benkoe