November 14, 2012 / 3:38 PM / in 5 years

Goldcorp hopes for El Morro permit next year

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) hopes its embattled $3.9 billion El Morro copper-gold mine in Chile will receive its new permit within the next year, Chief Executive Officer Chuck Jeannes told Reuters on Wednesday.

Chile’s Supreme Court suspended a key permit for the Canadian company’s El Morro project in April in one of the biggest legal blows to a mine in the country.

An appeals court had originally struck down El Morro’s environmental permit in February at the request of an indigenous agricultural community.

“We’re hoping that (the new permit) happens within the next year,” Jeannes said on the sidelines of a conference on mining security in Santiago. “One of the reasons I‘m here is to talk to government officials. El Morro is a very important project for us”.

Jeannes declined to comment on when Goldcorp expected first production from the project, which is 70 percent owned by his company and 30 percent owned by smaller competitor New Gold Inc (NGD.TO). The partners had expected to start building the mine in September and to begin initial production in 2017.

But El Morro, planned high in the Andes of top global copper producer Chile’s arid Atacama region, also faces looming energy problems.

“Power is not readily available for the project, so we have to find out what will be our energy supply,” Jeannes said.

A host of mining projects in Chile’s Atacama region are seen particularly at risk after the Supreme Court rejected Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista’s planned $5 billion Central Castilla MPXE3.SA plant in August, analysts say.

The government faces mass protests as Chileans demand a bigger share of copper earnings, and some critics charge that a regulatory vacuum has emerged, allowing opposition groups to challenge approved plans for hydropower projects in Patagonia and thermoelectric plants across the country.

Jeannes said Goldcorp’s 2012 production should be between the previously forecast 2.35 million to 2.45 million gold ounces, boosted by a strong fourth quarter.

The miner’s three major construction projects are going well, he added.

Shares of the Vancouver-based miner were down 1.1 percent at C$42.43 in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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