March 18, 2019 / 8:23 PM / 5 months ago

Chile Supreme Court annuls lower court order to close Barrick's Pasqua Lama project

TORONTO, March 18 (Reuters) - Chile's Supreme Court on Monday cancelled a lower court order to close the Chilean side of Barrick Gold Corp's stalled Pasqua Lama project, delaying the resolution to a problem that has dogged the Canadian company for years.

The gold and silver project, which straddles the mineral-rich El Indio belt on the border of Argentina and Chile in the Andes mountains, has been on hold since 2013 due to environmental concerns, political opposition and labor issues, and costs have surged to $8.5 billion.

The Supreme Court annuled the October decision by the environmental court on procedural grounds and remanded the case back to the court for review by a different panel of judges, which could take several months, Barrick said in a regulatory statement.

Barrick shares closed down 0.9 percent at C$17.27 in Toronto, compared with the S&P/TSX global mining index's 0.7 percent gain.

The court ruling delays a decision on the project's future, Barrick said in the statement, noting that it remains focused on resolving the issues. "Despite the legacy challenges relating to the Pasqua-Lama project, there are exciting opportunities here, especially in the El Indio Belt, and we will be pursuing this," Barrick Chief Executive Mark Bristow said in the statement.

The company has begun a technical review of the project, and has conducted studies for a water management plan that it is confident will be acceptable to the environmental authority, it said.

The October environmental court ruling reinforced an order to close the mine, by Chile's environmental regulator issued in January 2018, which also included an $11.5 million fine on the company. (Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Richard Chang)

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