TORONTO (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) on Tuesday lost a courtroom battle over the ownership of the huge El Morro gold-copper project in Chile, after an Ontario judge dismissed claims filed by Barrick against its smaller Canadian rival Goldcorp Inc (G.TO).
Barrick began legal action after Goldcorp sealed an agreement to buy a 70 percent stake in the El Morro project, one of the largest known copper and gold deposits in Latin America.
Barrick had a deal to buy the stake from owner Xstrata XTA.L, but was bested when Goldcorp swooped in with a side deal after minority stakeholder New Gold (NGD.TO) rejected the Barrick bid as part of its right of first refusal.
Toronto-based Barrick, the world’s largest goldminer, filed a lawsuit against New Gold, Goldcorp and Xstrata in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The lawsuit stated that the exercise of the right of first refusal was invalid and had improperly interfered with Barrick’s right to acquire the interest in El Morro.
Ontario Court Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel had dismissed the claims made by Barrick, Goldcorp said in a statement late on Tuesday.
“We are pleased that the court has confirmed our position that our acquisition of El Morro was completely proper and consistent with the relevant agreements and Chilean law,” said Goldcorp’s Chief Executive Chuck Jeannes in the statement.
Barrick said it continued to believe that New Gold improperly exercised its right of first refusal. It would review the court’s ruling in detail and consider its options.
As of December 31, 2010, proven and probable reserves at El Morro totaled 8.4 million ounces of gold and 6.1 billion pounds of copper.
Reporting By Euan Rocha; Editing by Richard Pullin