|Accord reached over Nev. mine until court hearing|
Barrick Gold agrees to limit work at Nevada gold mine until court hearing in January
December 15th, 2008
Lawyers for Barrick Gold Corp., environmentalists and a group of Western Shoshone have agreed what work can proceed at a new Nevada mine until a hearing is held next month on efforts to restrict the project.
Critics of Barrick's Cortez Hills Project in northern Nevada claim the mine will deface Mount Tenabo, a site held sacred by some members of the Western Shoshone.
Some Western Shoshone members, along with Great Basin Resource Watch, have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's approval of the 6,700-acre mine, claiming the agency's environmental studies and acceptance of the project were flawed.
They also are seeking an injunction to stop at least part of the mine, described as among the largest gold mining projects in the United States. Barrick has said it plans to mine roughly 1 million ounces of gold from the project each year in its first five years.
During a hearing earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks told both sides to try to agree on what work could proceed until a hearing on the injunction is held in late January.
In a stipulation filed late last week, lawyers agreed Toronto-based Barrick can continue with some site preparation, including relocating power lines and roads, and perform underground mining.
The company, however, agreed not to cut any trees or begin work on the proposed 835-acre mine pit, 1,900-acre waste rock dump or 300-acre cyanide leach facility.
The open pit would be 2,000 feet deep. In the Dec. 2 hearing, Barrick lawyer Francis Wikstrom argued Mount Tenabo has been mined for more than a century, and displayed satellite photos depicting crisscrossing roads and cleared forests in the remote area.
He said the company wanted to complete some site work before winter, and that a delay would cause the company and subcontractors economic harm.
Roger Flynn, an attorney representing the Western Shoshone Defense Project, South Fork Band Council, Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and Great Basin Resource Watch, said his clients don't object to the entire project, just those aspects that would scar Mount Tenabo.
He argued the project will cause "irreparable harm" to sacred sites and water sources on the mountain 250 miles east of Reno.
A hearing on the injunction was scheduled for the week of Jan. 20, according to court documents.