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Piñera blasts environmental licensing for giant Pascua-Lama gold mine project

Saturday, June 8th 2013 - 06:18 UTC
Full article 2 comments
The project has been halted by a Chilean court supporting claims of damages to glaciers and wart supplies The project has been halted by a Chilean court supporting claims of damages to glaciers and wart supplies

Chilean President Sebastian Piñera blasted the environmental review process that led to a permit for Barrick Gold’s, now-suspended 8.5 billion dollar Pascua-Lama gold mine project.

“The environmental permit of 2006 was badly done... you look at it and wonder: how didn't they anticipate all these problems?” Piñera, a conservative president whose term ends next year, told reporters in the La Moneda palace.

In April, a Chilean appeals court halted the project to weigh indigenous communities' claims that Barrick has damaged pristine glaciers and harmed water supplies.

Chile's new environmental regulator then fined and also ordered a suspension of the project in May, citing serious environmental violations.

“They're going to have to meet all requirements and in the meantime works won't be able to go forth,” said Piñera, a former airline magnate with a pro-business record.

The mine, which straddles Chile and Argentina, will likely be reactivated in one to two years at the earliest, given the infrastructure that needs to be built to avoid water pollution, Chile's environmental regulator revealed.

According to the environmental license terms, Pascua-Lama had to build infrastructure to manage and treat water before launching its pre-stripping operations. But the company had only partially implemented this mitigation system before it started pre-stripping, according to the regulator.

The regulator underlined that defective water canals led to a massive rockslide in January, which affected 1,500 square meters of meadows, causing “irreparable harm”.

Barrick said this week it would delay the mine's start-up beyond 2014 and as a result would likely exceed its current project budget of up to 8.5bn.

The unpopular project has become a key focus of environmental groups in Chile, who have called for a revocation of its permit given the infractions.

However this is election year in Chile and the environmental reviews was approved in June 2006 under the administration of former president Michelle Bachelet who is again running for office, and leading in public opinion polls.

No wonder then than pro-business Piñera is attacking the environmental licence from 2006.


Tags: Chile, Pascua Lama.

Top Comments

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  • Think

    Very good, Mr. Piñera!

    I hope that pretty soon, from your opposition bench, you will exclaim...:

    “The environmental permit for Hidroaysen was badly done... you look at it and wonder: how didn't we anticipate all these problems?”

    Jun 08th, 2013 - 08:34 am 0
  • Chicureo

    Many conservatives and liberals have been completely against Pascua-Lama and HidroAysén from the very beginning. I'm pro-mining and recognize that Chile needs to increase its electrical power generation capabilities, but these projects are wrong for my country.

    Even Socialists make wrong decisions, or have you forgotten?

    Jun 08th, 2013 - 01:29 pm 0
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