Barrick Gold Looking Into Argentina Mine Spill Accusations

  • Statement follows article that judge `processed' employees
  • Leak detected on Sept. 13 from a faulty valve at Veladero

Nine current and former Barrick Gold Corp. employees are facing accusations of negligence in Argentina over a cyanide solution spill last year, a local newspaper reported. Barrick said it has not yet confirmed whether any charges had been brought.

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. They weren’t detained, it reported.

“Barrick notes media reports that the Jachal Court of San Juan province, Argentina will continue investigating nine current and former Barrick employees as suspects of a potential crime in connection with an unauthorized release of processing solution,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “If confirmed, this is a standard legal process under Argentina’s civil law code.”

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.

‘Disappointed’ Partners

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.

“We recognize that we have disappointed many of our partners in San Juan province and we deeply regret this incident,” Barrick President Kelvin Dushnisky said in the statement. “The company is committed to ensuring we have robust polices and standards in place that protect the environment at all of our operations.”

Andy Lloyd, a Barrick spokesman, said in an e-mail that the company hasn’t yet confirmed whether charges have been laid.

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