Colombia's Cerro Matoso mine wins appeal, will not pay damages

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s Cerro Matoso nickel mine, owned by Australian miner South32, will not be required to pay damages to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities after winning an appeal in Colombia’s constitutional court, a court spokesperson said on Thursday.

The court had previously ruled that waste emissions seriously affected communities in Cordoba province, including community members who had been diagnosed with lung and heart problems. It also said that some residents had high levels of nickel in their blood and urine.

In the appeal, the court ruled the company will not have to indemnify the eight communities, but it upheld part of the ruling requiring the company to re-apply for its environmental licensing, including a community consultation process, the spokesperson said.

It was not immediately clear whether the ruling would require the company to halt production during the licensing process.

Cerro Matoso said it had not yet been notified of the decision, but it would evaluate the ruling once it had been.

The mine produced 40,600 tonnes of ferronickel in 2017.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Leslie Adler