Work at El Morro Mine halted

May 1, 2012

Chile’s environmental permitting authority, SEA, suspended approval of the environmental permit for Goldcorp’s El Morro gold and copper project, prompting the company to halt construction on the project.

Vancouver-based Goldcorp, Canada’s second-largest gold miner, said construction work on the mine would be suspended until environmental authorities address deficiencies identified by an appeals court in Antofagasta, in Chile’s rich northern mining region, Canada’ Globe and Mail reported.

The El Morro project is not the only project to face hurdles. Environmental concerns are increasingly gaining traction in Chile, the world’s largest copper miner, and major mining and energy projects have come under the scrutiny of local and international groups.

Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s largest gold miner, took years to overcome noisy environmental challenges before it could start building the giant Pascua Lama gold project, located some 5,500 m (18,000 st) up steep Andes mountain slopes that separate Chile and Argentina.

And the issues are not only in Chile. In Peru, Newmont is facing stiff opposition to its Conga project from local and government authorities.

“Activities not related to site construction, such as detailed engineering, design work and architectural planning, will remain underway,” Goldcorp said in a statement.

Goldcorp had planned to start construction on El Morro in September, spending about C$3.9 billion over a five-year period on a mine that will represent the company’s re-entry into Chile.

Once built, the mine is projected to produce an average of 6.3 t/a (210,000 oz/year) of gold and 892 t/a (200 million lbs/year) of copper per year to Goldcorp's account for 17 years. The project is 70 percent owned by Goldcorp and 30 percent owned by New Gold.

Project managers expect to meet with the SEA as well as with the local community that requested a review of the project, its potential impacts and measures to mitigate them.

“El Morro will cooperate with the SEA to ensure that deficiencies are fully and appropriately addressed,” Goldcorp said in a statement.
Goldcorp is also facing a dispute about its ownership of El Morro, in separate court proceedings in Canada.

Toronto-based Barrick Gold claims Goldcorp illegally obtained control of the project through violations of agreements among the mine's shareholders, while Goldcorp said it acted fairly.

Final legal arguments were submitted to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto in early February, and a ruling is expected soon.




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