Barrick suspends operations at mine in Argentina after leak

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Barrick Gold Corp. said on Thursday that it is temporarily suspending operations at its Veladero mine in Argentina following a new leak.

Argentine authorities fined Barrick $9.3 million earlier this year after a 2015 cyanide spill at the mine in the western province of San Juan.

The world’s largest gold mining company said Thursday that the new leak took place on Sept. 8 when a pipe that carried process solution containing cyanide was damaged by a large block of ice that rolled down the heap leach valley.

The Canada-based company said “a small quantity of solution left the leach pad,” without affecting watercourses. It said its employees, the community and the environment were not harmed.

Barrick told The Associated Press in an email late Thursday that Veladero’s General Manager Rick Baker had stepped down from his post and would be replaced.

Veladero is located about 786 miles (1,265 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires at more than 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level. Barrick has forecast an annual mine output of 580,000-640,000 ounces of gold for 2016.

Last year, Barrick said a pipe carrying cyanide at Veladero had a valve failure that produced a leak into nearby waters. An investigation determined about 35,300 cubic feet (1,000 cubic meters) of liquid cyanide spilled.

Local judge Pablo Oritja suspended all operations and brought charges against nine current and former Barrick employees. But Oritja said Thursday that the new leak “should not be called a spill because it didn’t reach the valley and there’s no contamination.”

San Juan province Gov. Sergio Unac said the mine’s operations will remain halted “until it can be determined that there are no risks.”

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