Barrick Gold: Pascua-Lama Project

Update 23 January 2014:

In the light of low metal prices and “continued uncertainty and risk”, Barrick decided to put the Pascua Lama project on hold and on care and maintenance. However, work on the water management system was upheld.

Update March 2015:

The Environmental Court rejected a claim by small scale farmers and their organization “Olca” (for its spanish initials) that glaciers had been desroyed by the operations of Barrick´s Pascua Lama project.

The court however upheld that the glaciers were deteriorating and that the company take measures for the protection of the glaciers and make all information transparent.



Barrick Gold’s Pascua-Lama project is an open-pit mining operation on the  Chilean-Argentine border intended for the extraction of gold, silver, and other minerals. The mine, while not yet in production, has received significant criticism for its potential environmental impacts. In particular, the mine’s close proximity to Glaciers puts entire ecosystems at risk and threatens vital water sources. Barrick Gold received an OECD complaint regarding the project in 2011 for water, air, and soil pollution. The status of the case is still pending.[1]

In May 2013, Chilean authorities fined Barrick $16 million and froze construction pending the construction of a wastewater management system.[2] A subsequent July 2013 Chilean court ruling formally suspended the project citing environmental concerns.[3] Chilean government officials described the environmental breaches at Barrick’s Pascua-Lama mine as “very serious.”[4]

In August 2013, Barrick Gold admitted to committing violations at the Pascua-Lama Gold Project, saying it viewed the court’s decision to halt Chilean operations as “rightful.” The company claims to have submitted a compliance plan to the Chilean regulatory authorities to complete the water management system by 2014.[5]

In December, 2013, Barrick Gold announced that it would be laying off 1,500 workers employed on the Argentinian side of the project. A local industry spokesperson stated that this move reflects Barrick’s decision to increase its focus on improving the Chilean side of the project to meet environmental and regulatory standards.[6]

Barrick Gold is still involved (in 2014) in legal proceedings at the Chilean Supreme Court to appeal their significant penalty received from the environmental supervisory authorities.

In May 2014, a lawsuit was filed against Barrick in Ontario for the alleged misguidance of investors of the Pascua Lama project.

[1] OECD Watch (2013): FOCO et al vs Barrick Gold: (accessed 10.09.2013).

[2] BBC News (2013): Chile fines Barrick Gold $16m for Pascua-Lama mine, 24 May 2013: (accessed 10.09.2013).

[3] Reuters (2013): Group seeks re-evaluation of Chile’s Pascua-Lama project, 22 July: (accessed 10.09.2013).

[4] See supra note 2

[5] Cecilia Jamasmie (2013): Barrick admits violations in Pascua Lama, vows to make ‘things right’, 27 August: (accessed 10.09.2013).

[6] Ana Komnenic (2013): “1,500 Barrick workers out of a job as Pascua Lama suspension takes effect”, 15 December, 2013: (accessed 17.12.2013)