Argentine province fines Barrick $9.8 mln for cyanide spill

Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:05pm EST
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BUENOS AIRES, March 11 (Reuters) - Argentina's San Juan province fined Barrick Gold Corp 145.7 million pesos ($9.82 million) on Friday for mining code breaches that led to a cyanide spill at the company's Veladero mine in September, a provincial government statement said.

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.

"With this fine we are protecting the development of mining activities in the province," said Sergio Unac, the governor of San Juan province where the Veladero mine is located.

In a statement posted on the company's website, Barrick President Kelvin Dushnisky said: "We recognize that we have disappointed many of our partners in San Juan province and we deeply regret this incident."

Earlier this week, a judge in the western province accepted charges against nine current and former Barrick employees in connection with the spill.

State-run news agency Telam cited Unac saying that Barrick committed mining code violations, including a failure to ensure safety rules, comply with monitoring and contingency plans and report the incident to the local authority.

Dushnisky said controls and safeguards at the mine had been strengthened since the spill.

Tests by U.N. investigators in October showed that the spill had not contaminated local water supplies.

($1 = 14.83 pesos) (Reporting by Maximilian Heath and Richard Lough; Editing by Tom Brown)