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SANTIAGO, July 15 (Reuters) - A Chilean court is expected to rule unanimously to suspend work on Barrick Gold Corp's Pascua-Lama gold mine, siding in favor of an appeal lodged by indigenous communities in a fresh blow to the controversial project, a local paper reported on Monday.
El Mercurio said the Copiapo Court of Appeals would issue the ruling later on Monday.
In April, the court had temporarily frozen construction of the $8.5 billion project, which straddles the Chile-Argentine border high in the Andes, to weigh claims by the indigenous communities that it has damaged pristine glaciers and harmed water supplies.
Chile's environmental regulator has also suspended Pascua-Lama, citing major environmental violations.
Analysts say Toronto-based Barrick, the world's top gold miner, will likely appeal the Copiapo court's ruling to the supreme court, setting the stage for a protracted legal battle. Chile is the world No. 1 copper producer.