Barrick Gold to work on mine despite court ruling

AP News
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Posted: Dec 04, 2009 6:18 PM

Global mining giant Barrick Gold Corp. will continue work on a massive gold mine project in Nevada even though a U.S. court of appeals ordered more environmental analysis on the mining project, a company spokesman said Friday.

Vincent Borg said work will continue on its new $500 million Cortez Hills mine a day after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit granted an injunction to force Barrick Gold to postpone digging a 2,000-foot deep open pit at the mine.

The appeals court ruling will be interpreted by a Nevada District Court, which will determine what action, including any suspension of operations, may be required to respond to the decision of the U.S. court of appeals.

Borg said that work on the mine will proceed at least until a possible suspension of activities is ordered by the District Court or a further appeal ruling is rendered.

In reversing an earlier ruling, the three judges in San Francisco said the U.S. Bureau of Land Management failed to adequately analyze the mine's potential to pollute the air with mercury emissions and dry up scarce water resources in Nevada's high desert. The project is located on Mount Tenabo, about 250 miles east of Reno.

The native tribes in Nevada sued Barrick to stop expansion of the mine near a sacred site.

The federal appeals court has directed a lower court to consider appropriate relief for native tribes who want the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to do additional environmental analysis of the mining development.

The analysis may be completed "relatively quickly" but the timing of the legal process will depend on the legal avenues pursued by the company and the Bureau of Land Management, federal agency for mine permitting, said Borg.

Barrick says the bureau approved the company's plans for the Cortez Hills project in November 2008 and that it will cooperate to comply with the appeals court.

But Borg said the company was pleased that the appeals court rejected the plaintiff's arguments that the mine infringes on their rights to practice religion.

Barrick began construction in January on the mine, which would be one of the largest open-pit, cyanide heap leach gold mines in the United States.

The company, which employed 16,300 people at the end of 2008, has mines in Canada, the United States, Africa and Australia.

Barrick has several low-cost projects positioned to come online over the next five years, besides Cortez Hills.

Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic is expected to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2011; Pascua-Lama on the border between Argentina and Chile, expected to begin production in the first quarter of 2013; and Buzwagi in Tanzania, which began production in May and is on track to produce 200,000 ounces this year.