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Argentina regulator calls for full suspension of Barrick's Veladero mine

Argentina's environmental ministry requested a federal court to halt all operations at Barrick Gold Corp.'s Veladero mine in the country "until there is a guarantee that there will be no environmental damages," Reuters reported April 7.

In a meeting with Barrick executives including President Kelvin Dushnisky, national and provincial officials told the company that it must overhaul environmental and operating processes at Veladero following another cyanide spill.

The company on March 28 reported a third cyanide spill at Veladero in 18 months, after which it was ordered to stop some operations at the site. Later, the government of San Juan province temporarily restricted the addition of cyanide to the mine's heap leach facility.

"We have told the company to change their standards and invest, modify the project's engineering to ensure these incidents never happen again," Energy and Mining Minister Juan Jose Aranguren said.

If Barrick does not agree to an external audit, it would risk its concession to operate the mine, Aranguren noted.

San Juan province would also make any decision on an eventual fine for the company, with full support of the national government, he added.

Meanwhile, Barrick spokesman Andy Lloyd said the company had "constructive meetings" with government representatives and "agreed on a path forward that addresses their concerns."

Just a day earlier, Barrick announced the US$960 million sale of a 50% stake in Veladero to Chinese miner Shandong Gold Mining Co. Ltd.