The Supreme Court of Chile has upheld an environmental permit for Barrick Gold’s $8.5bn Pascua-Lama mining project, on the condition that a satisfactory water management system is built, rejecting demands for permanent shutdown of the project.
The ruling concludes a constitutional rights protection action filed in September 2012 on behalf of four indigenous communities.
Barrick said the ruling allows the project to advance ‘in compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements’.
The company has submitted a plan to Chilean regulatory authorities which estimates completion of the water management system will be finished by the end of 2014.
Barrick said the estimated timeframe for completion of these works is dependent on regulatory approval of specific permit applications.
Earlier in 2013, Chile President Sebastian Pinera criticised the environmental assessment process that led to the granting of a permit to Pascua-Lama mine project.
Pascua-Lama mine is an open-pit mining project located in the Andes Mountains on the Chilean-Argentine border.
The project has reserves of gold, silver, copper and other minerals and is expected to produce 800,000oz to 850,000oz of gold and 35 million ounces of silver a year in its first five years.
The firm has already spent $5bn on project development and environmental hurdles are likely to delay the start of operations beyond 2014.
Situated at an altitude between 3,800m and 5,200m, Pascua-Lama’s mine life is expected to be 25 years.
In May 2013, the environmental regulator in Chile slapped a fine of nearly $16m on Barrick and when the company was given the environmental license, Pascua-Lama made a commitment to construct enough infrastructure facilities to manage and treat water before launching its pre-stripping operations.
Image: Pascua Lama open-pit mining project is located in the Andes Mountains on the border of Chile and Argentina.