Barrick Gold fined $9.3 million for Argentina cyanide spill

AP News
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Posted: Mar 11, 2016 7:01 PM

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Authorities in Argentina fined Barrick Gold Corp. $9.3 million on Friday for a cyanide spill last year at the company's Veladero mine in the western province of San Juan.

The Canadian-owned company said a valve failed in a pipe carrying cyanide at the mine Sept. 13, causing a leak into nearby waters. An investigation determined about 35,300 cubic feet (1,000 cubic meters) of liquid cyanide solution spilled. Barrick said the amount did not pose a risk to humans.

But an Argentine judge investigating the spill suspended operations using cyanide at the mine until the cause could be determined, and local residents expressed fear that their water resources had been contaminated. The suspension was lifted days later.

On Friday, the Ministry of Mining in San Juan, about 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) west of Buenos Aires, announced the fine.

"With this we are protecting the development of mining activities in the province," Gov. Sergio Unac said.

Earlier in the week, Judge Pablo Oritja brought charges against nine current and former Barrick employees without ordering preventative detention.

"We recognize that we have disappointed many of our partners in San Juan province and we deeply regret this incident," Barrick President Kelvin Dushnisky said in a statement posted on the company's website.

The statement repeated the company's position that the spill posed no risk to people's health or the environment.

An assembly of residents of the nearby village of Jachal released a statement saying: "Our life and the water of our people are not worth the 145 million-peso ($9.3 million) fine given to Barrick." I

"Our goal is remediation, closure and a ban on open-pit mega-mining with toxic substances," it added.