Water not contaminated after cyanide spill at Barrick's Veladero-UN

Thu Oct 1, 2015 12:00pm EDT
 
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BUENOS AIRES Oct 1 (Reuters) - A cyanide solution spill at Barrick Gold Corp's Veladero mine in western Argentina did not contaminate local water supplies, preliminary tests by U.N. investigators showed.

The Sept. 13 leak was caused by a defective valve and prompted a court order that forced Barrick to temporarily halt pumping the cyanide solution used in the leaching process. The ban was lifted last week.

Initial results from samples taken from surface water five days after the spill "showed no deviation from measurements taken in June 2015," the report showed.

Felipe Saavedra, the mining minister in San Juan province where Veladero is located, said the results indicated "there was no proof of contamination."

The tests were conducted by the United Nations Office for Project Services and the United Nations Environment Programme, which late last year began auditing the legal compliance and environment standards of mines in the province.

Residents living near the mine that the spill have worried that local rivers and aquifers might be contaminated.

A legal complaint has been filed against nine Barrick employees in connection with the leak. The nine have not been formally charged at this point, and Judge Pablo Oritja is expected to take testimony from the employees next week as well as receive documents from the local government to determine if the case should proceed.

The Veladero mine produced 722,000 ounces of gold last year. (Reporting by Richard Lough and Maximilian Heath; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)