Miner Barrick to take $429 million charge at stalled gold project

(Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp expects to record a pre-tax charge of around $429 million at its stalled Pascua-Lama project in South America in the fourth quarter due to reclassifying its gold reserves.

Barrick, the world’s biggest gold miner by output, also said it had formed a working group with China’s Shandong Gold to study a potential partnership at Pascua-Lama, which straddles the border of Chile and Argentina in the Andes Mountains.

Barrick put the contentious gold and silver project on hold in 2013 due to environmental issues, political opposition, labor unrest and development costs that had ballooned to $8.5 billion.

Last month, Chilean environmental regulators ordered Barrick to close existing infrastructure on the Chilean side of the project, where Barrick had originally planned to develop an open pit mine.

As a result, the miner is reclassifying Pascua-Lama’s 14 million ounces of gold, which were based on an open pit mine plan, to measured and indicated resources - a mineral category with less certainty of being mined economically.

Barrick has said that closing surface facilities in Chile is in line with its revised plan to study the development of an underground mine at Pascua-Lama.

The miner last April brought in Shandong Gold as a partner in its Veladero mine in Argentina. As part of that deal, the partners would look at jointly developing Pascua-Lama.

Barrick is due to release its fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 14.

Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Susan Thomas