Papua New Guinea court to rule on Barrick mine challenge in June

FILE PHOTO: Souvenir luggage tags are displayed at a Barrick Gold Corp at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A Papua New Guinea court is set to rule next month on whether Barrick Gold Corp can proceed with a legal challenge over the government’s refusal to extend its lease on the Porgera gold mine, the head of the country’s mining regulator said.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) said last month it would take control of the lucrative but troubled mine in the remote highlands region, citing environmental and social problems.

Barrick, which operates the mine in a joint venture with China’s Zijin Mining, suspended operations and launched a court challenge to the decision, vowing to pursue “all legal avenues” for recourse.

PNG’s National Court is considering whether to allow the case to proceed.

“The court case went through all the substantive matters. They reserved the decision for June 3rd,” Jerry Garry, head of the country’s Mineral Resources Authority told Reuters.

It was not clear whether a refusal to allow the challenge to go ahead would exhaust Barrick’s legal avenues.

Barrick (Niugini) Ltd, which manages the joint venture with Zijin directed Reuters to the company’s external lawyer, Derek Wood, who had no immediate comment on the matter.

Human rights organisations and some locals have advocated for the mine’s closure due to social unrest and pollution.

Barrick has said the move by the government is tantamount to nationalisation and that it has always abided by the country’s environmental regulations.

Reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; editing by Richard Pullin