|Barrick Gold Could Lose the Pascua Lama Project|
El Ciudadano, Translation by Molly Fohn
April 3rd, 2013
The largest gold mining company in the world, Barrick Gold and its Chilean subsidiary, Nevada Spa Mining, could lose in the coming months the Pascua deposit worth millions after a series of frauds regarding mining property and repeated poor environmental practices. The deposit is known as the Pascua-Lama, with the name Pascua from the Chilean side, and Lama from the Argentine side.
Barrick Gold is accused of illegally extracting gold minerals along with outlawed salt and nitrate concessions. The accusations include mining gold from Chile while ignoring a provisional Supreme Court measure that prohibits mining activity and securing new contracts, conducting business in the international bank with “phony” titles, and trying to obstruct justice using false testimony, among others. The accusations have been presented by Chilean mine owner, Jorge Lopehandía, who along with Mountainstar Gold Inc, were granted legal ownership of the Pascua mine in February.
On February 1, 2013, Alan GS Hultman, the lawyer for Mountainstar Gold Inc, received the Pascua Mine Chile property titles and its mining concessions.
On January 16, the titles were issued in Vallenar, Chile by the Mines Commissioner, Paulo Cortes Olguín. This grants sole legal jurisdiction over the Pascua Mine area concessions and titles, to Lopehandía, who has been threatened and pressured by Barrick Gold to waive his own rights.
The titles were authenticated by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Chilean Exterior Relations and have been validated by the Canadian Embassy in Santiago, Chile. This happened after Barrick tried to invalidate Lopehandía’s actions in Canada several times.
This is a check or almost checkmate for Barrick, because in Chile the only person authorized to grant a valid mining property certificate, or for that matter, who can validate the right [to mining property], is the Mines Commissionar, who in this case is from the the jurisdiction of the city of Vallenar.
The Mines Commissioner established in a legal document that the concessions of the Pascua Project in Chile: Tesoros Uno 1 al 30 through Tesoros Doce 1 al 5 are in Jorge Lopehandía’s name, making him the valid title-holder from 2013 onward.
Thus this advance ruling underscores that Barrick Gold Corporation (ABX), or its affiliates in Chile do not have titles nor have they ever had titles for these concessions.
Secondly, the Commissioner established through the work of Lopehandía’s mining agent, Mr. Villar, that “Amarillos North (12,850 acres) and Amarillos South (8,400 acres) have been Lopehandía’s property since 1996.
Both Lopehandía and Brent Johnson, his partner from Mountainstar Gold Inc, reiterated their confidence in the Chilean justice system, adding that “all the false declarations made by Barrick executives and their affiliates in Chile in relation to these titles, have given way to criminal chrges, and a call for jail sentences against those involved with the case.”
Barrick Paralyzed for Damaging the Environment
In addition, Barrick Gold has been ordered to pay the sum of 2,000 UTM a Chilean currency unit to calculate taxes, fines, and custom duties, close to 120 million pesos or $254,400 USD], a fine issued for irregularities in environmental mismanagement and for not fulfilling its commitments and mitigation measures of the Environmental Ratings Resolution (RCA in Spanish).
“All mining operations in Pascua Lama are paralyzed,” clarified Mauricio Pino, the Regional Ministerial Mining Secretary of Atacama.
The above finding was a result of the Atacama General Direction of Waters’(DGA in Spanish) detection of particulate matter in the surrounding glaciers, which the company had unsuccessfully attempted to hide.
Barrick is accused of failures in the handling of the mine’s wastewater plant, failure in the monitoring of the glaciers located in the Cordillera mountains of the Huasco valley in the Atacama region, and failures in its efforts to avoid transporting material over the glaciers, which threatens their conservation and the sustainability of the water flow in the basin.
Barrick risks losing its environmental permit from the Environmental Superintendent if it continues to commit these serious infractions.
It should also be added that in October 2012, work was already stopped by the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) after they detected that the mines caused pollution and health risks to the workers.