Judge suspends leaching at Barrick's Veladero mine pending inspection plan

Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:24am EDT
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BUENOS AIRES, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Gold leaching at Barrick Gold Corp's Veladero mine in Argentina will remain suspended until the miner presents an improved technical inspection and maintenance plan after a defective valve led to a cyanide leak, a judge said.

Pablo Oritja, a judge in the western province of San Juan where the mine is located, initially ordered a five-day halt to the leaching process, but has now extended the suspension indefinitely as a precautionary measure.

"The company has to present a plan for improvements to the safe handling of valves," Oritja told reporters on Wednesday.

A Barrick spokesman in Argentina declined to comment immediately on whether the prolonged suspension would affect gold output.

Oritja ordered Barrick constantly monitor its operations to prevent another leak in the future. The miner has said the Sept. 13 leak was detected almost immediately and that there had been no contamination of nearby rivers.

RBC Capital Markets told clients in a briefing note that it did not expect the incident to have a material impact on the company's 2015 production or costs.

The Veladero mine produced 722,000 ounces of gold last year and is forecast contribute about 10 percent of Barrick's 2015 gold output, RBS Capital said.

(Reporting by Juliana Castilla and Richard Lough; Editing by Nick Zieminski)