Civil society groups are reportedly calling on Canada’s Barrick Gold to stop the $1.3bn expansion plan of the Pueblo Viejo gold mine in the Dominican Republic due to environmental concerns.

In March 2020, Barrick Gold unveiled plans to extend the life of the mine beyond 2040. The company aims to exploit the lower grades in the orebody through the expansion work.

As part of the plan, Barrick said that it will initially invest $1.3bn to expand the processing plant and tailings facility at the mine.

However, civil society groups have flagged concerns over the expansion project citing its risks due to increased mine waste and threats to the rights of local communities, reported Reuters.

According to the news agency, a total of 87 environmental and aid groups signed a letter opposing the expansion plan.

Barrick CEO Mark Bristow was cited by the news agency as saying that formal engagements have started between the company and communities in this regard. This follows more than a year of informal meetings.

However, ‘detractors’ restricted more than 200 people from taking part in the community meeting held for the expansion work, Bristow added.

Located 100km from Santo Domingo, the Pueblo Viejo mine is a joint venture between Barrick Gold (60%) and Newmont Goldcorp (40%).

The proposed mine expansion would increase export potential by an estimated $22bn and generate an extra $4bn in taxes at a gold price of $1,500 per ounce.

In its annual report, Barrick said the Pueblo Viejo expansion project would have an annual throughput of 14 million tonnes.

The firm has also started talks to secure land for the proposed new tailings storage facility, it said in the report.