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ARGENTINA / CHILE
Pascua-Lama steams ahead
9/23/2009
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Canada´s Barrick starts construction on largest project in South America, despite environmental impact.

Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold Corp. says it has started construction on its Pascua-Lama mine, which spans a stretch of the Chilean-Argentine border, despite broad opposition from local residents and environmentalists.

The delicate geography at the site of the open-pit mine, whose initial pre-construction cost Barrick pegs at up to US$3 billion, has raised fears about environmental damage and the pollution of key water sources for those living in Chile´s Huasco province, an important agricultural zone.

The mine holds an estimated 18 million ounces of gold, 718 million ounces of silver and nearly 650 million pounds of copper, and will be Barrick´s largest project in the region.

Production is scheduled to begin as early as late 2012.

The open-pit mine has sparked fears about the three important glaciers that feed area rivers in the farming districts there, especially on the Chilean side of the border. The mine is in the Atacama region, one of the driest zones on earth and the glaciers provide a key water supply.

Some worry about the close relationship between the Chilean government and Barrick. In mid-September, Barrick was one of the sponsors of a $250-plate dinner at the New York-based Council of the Americas honoring President Michelle Bachlelet.

On the other side of the border, Argentine Dep. Fernanda Reyes has filed a case against the country´s Mining Secretary Jorge Mayoral for a possible conflict of interest because of alleged ties to the Canadian company.

Barrick Gold began its activities in the Huasco Valley in 1985. Environmentalists worry that the dark sediment that covers the remaining ice atop these mountains and other damage that the mine could cause, would lower their ability to deflect solar rays, heating the ice and melting it prematurely.
—Latinamerica Press.


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