Chilean Supreme Court refuses to consider Barrick appeal on Pascua-Lama project

TORONTO – Barrick Gold Corporation (TSX:ABX) says the Chilean Supreme Court of Chile has refused to consider an appeal of a lower court decision on sanctions imposed by the country’s environmental regulator on its $8.5-billion Pascua-Lama project.

An earlier ruling by Chile’s Environment Court had found that the environmental regulator, known as the SMA, improperly determined administrative fines levied against Barrick for permit infractions identified in 2013.

Barrick sought to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court, arguing the fines were calculated based on applicable law and commonly accepted legal principles.

However, Barrick says the Supreme Court refused to consider the appeal on procedural grounds, ruling that Barrick is not a party to the case because the original action was brought against the government regulator.

As a result of the ruling, the SMA will now re-evaluate the administrative fines it imposed on the Pascua-Lama project, Barrick said Wednesday.

Barrick said it remains committed to working with its stakeholders and local communities in Chile to advance Pascua-Lama in “an environmentally responsible manner, respecting legal and regulatory requirements.”

Barrick announced on Oct. 31, following several court and regulatory setbacks in Chile, that it was suspending construction at the project and was uncertain when it would resume.

The project was originally estimated to cost between US$2.8 billion and US$3 billion but the estimate had risen to US$8.5 billion by the time construction was halted.

Several mining projects in mineral-rich Chile have been put on hold after opposition by local communities.

The Pascua-Lama development, straddling the Argentina-Chile border, has faced rising costs, falling gold prices and environmental lawsuits by Diaguita indigenous communities in the foothills of the Andes downstream from the mine.