Gold Fields gears up for endangered rodent removal at Chile mine

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African bullion producer Gold Fields is gearing up for an operation to capture and relocate a population of critically endangered chinchillas living around its Chilean mining project.

The environmental impact of mining companies is under growing scrutiny and is high on the radar of both investors and conservationists.

Hunted for centuries for their thick, soft pelt, chinchillas are now only found in the wild in parts of Chile and the mining company has agreed to move the rare rodents.

“We have to capture all the chinchillas and resettle them,” Gold Fields Chief Executive Nick Holland told Reuters on the sidelines of a mining conference.

“It’s part of our environmental agreement with the state,” he said. Holland said the animals would be relocated about 50 km (30 miles) from its Salares Norte gold and silver project.

Reporting by Ed Stoddard; editing by David Clarke