Canadian mining company Barrick and its key stakeholders have decided to have an independent, government-led oversight of the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) studies for a new tailings storage facility at the Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic.

The move comes when Barrick is working on a $1.3bn expansion plan that will extend the life of the gold mine beyond 2040.

The tailings storage facility is a key component of the expansion project.

The stakeholders notably agreed to have independent oversight of the ESIA studies following over a year of engagement with the communities that could be affected by the proposed facility.

As agreed, the investigation will be conducted by an international firm of specialists concurrently with Barrick’s engineering and environmental studies.

Barrick president and chief executive Mark Bristow said: “The expansion project has the potential to allow Pueblo Viejo to convert approximately nine million ounces of measured and indicated resources to proven and probable reserves.

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“At Barrick, we have a commitment to responsible mining and transparency, so we welcome such initiatives.”

Pueblo Viejo is operated by the Pueblo Viejo Dominicana joint venture (JV) between Barrick (60%) and Newmont (40%). Project development started in 2009 with production commencing from 2012.

Bristow added: “Pueblo Viejo has had a significant positive environmental, social and economic impact in the country and we hope that this will continue for many years to come.

“Our purpose is to continue contributing to the social and economic development of the country while applying our sustainability vision, which is to create long-term value for all our stakeholders, including the governments and people of our host countries.”