Barrick Says Argentina Court to Charge Employees for Spill

  • San Juan province to impose a fine of about $9 million
  • Leak detected on Sept. 13 from a faulty valve at Veladero

Barrick Gold Corp. confirmed on Friday that an Argentine court will proceed with criminal charges against nine current and former Barrick employees in connection with a cyanide solution spill last year.

Separately, the San Juan provincial government announced it intends to impose a fine of about $9 million against Barrick, the company said in a statement.

Confirmation of the charges comes after Diario de Cuyo reported Thursday that the nine had been “processed” more than a week ago by Judge Pablo Oritja over the September incident at the Veladero mine, citing judicial sources it didn’t identify.

“Barrick is not a party to any criminal cases,” Andy Lloyd, a spokesman for Barrick, said by e-mail. “The individuals are being represented by their own lawyers. As with any criminal case, there is a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise and as such we are providing support to the individuals affected.”

The company couldn’t comment on whether the individuals could face prison terms, Lloyd said. It will decide whether to challenge the government fine once it has had a chance to fully analyze it.

Cyanide solution is used in the leaching process at the gold mine. The leak, which was detected on Sept. 13 from a faulty valve, resulted in 1.1 cubic meters of solution escaping and led to a court order to temporarily suspend leaching.

Earlier this month, a statement posted on the presidential palace website said that a police report showed five rivers in San Juan province were affected by the spill. Water samples taken immediately following the incident, and in the months following, showed there was no risk to the health of people or the environment downstream from the mine, Toronto-based Barrick said in the statement.

Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer, said it has strengthened controls and safeguards at the mine since the leak occurred.

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