(Adds comments from energy minister)
By Caroline Stauffer and Susan Taylor
BUENOS AIRES/TORONTO, April 7 Argentina mining
officials told Barrick Gold Corp it must overhaul
environmental and operating processes at its Veladero mine,
following last week's cyanide solution spill, while the
country's environment ministry asked for a total suspension of
operations, according to statements on Friday.
National and provincial officials told Barrick executives at
a Thursday meeting that the Canadian company's ongoing business
in the country hinges on a new working plan for the open pit
mine, the country's energy minister said.
A pipe carrying cyanide solution ruptured at the open pit
mine on March 28, the third incident at the mine in 18 months
involving cyanide-bearing solution. A Barrick spokesman said the
meetings were constructive.
"We have told the company to change their standards and
invest, modify the project's engineering to ensure these
incidents never happen again," Energy and Mining Minister Juan
Jose Aranguren told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
He said the company's concession to operate the mine would
have been at risk if it had not agreed to an external audit on
The Thursday meeting, which also included Barrick President
Kelvin Dushnisky and the governor of San Juan province, came as
Barrick confirmed a Reuters story on a deal with China's
Shandong Gold Mining Co, which bought a 50 percent
stake in Veladero for $960 million.
Barrick, the world's largest gold miner, has been
temporarily restricted from adding cyanide to the mine's gold
processing facility. The Toronto-based company, which counts
Veladero as one of its five core mines, said no material impact
was expected on the mine's projected 2017 production.
Barrick's work plan should include "the complete
re-engineering of the operational and environmental processes
and standards of the Veladero enterprise," a statement from the
San Juan government said.
"We have held constructive meetings with government
representatives in recent days and have agreed on a path forward
that addresses their concerns," said Barrick spokesman Andy
Aranguren said the province would make any decision on an
eventual fine for Barrick but had the full support of the
Separately on Friday, Argentina's environmental ministry
asked a federal court to halt all activities at Veladero, "until
there is a guarantee that there will be no environmental
damages," it said in a statement.
Operations at the high-altitude mine were temporarily
suspended last September, after falling ice damaged a pipe and
spilled some ore saturated with cyanide solution over a raised
(Additional reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi, Maximilian heath
and Hugh Bronstein in Buenos Aires a; Editing by Marguerita Choy
and Matthew Lewis)