June 28, 2019 / 5:29 PM / 5 months ago

Eco Oro pulls out of Colombia gold concession amid legal battle: letter

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Eco Oro Minerals Corp EOM.CD has pulled out of its Angostura gold concession in Colombia amid a legal battle with the Andean country over environmental restrictions the Canadian miner said made the project impossible, according to a company letter.

The March 29 letter to the mining minister was disclosed by environmental group Comite Santurban in a tweet on Thursday.

A spokesman for Eco Oro declined to comment. The mining ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eco Oro sued the government in 2016 after the project in Santander province was cut in half by a constitutional court ruling and new regulations that expanded wetland protections. It is seeking $764 million in damages in ongoing arbitration, saying it had invested some $250 million.

Multinational miners looking to build large-scale underground projects in Colombia have struggled with a smorgasbord of legal, financial, environmental and community problems in recent years. Eco Oro is the second to fully pull out of a major project.

The expansion of the boundaries of the Santurban high-altitude wetland and regulations approved by mining authorities have deprived Eco Oro of its right to mine the concession, the company said in the letter.

“The impossibility of accessing the mineral resources made the Angostura project economically inviable for the company,” the letter said. “Furthermore, there is still not certainty in relation to whether Eco Oro could develop the remaining areas of the concession outside of the preservation area of the wetland.”

The company will coordinate with the authorities to close down its operations at the site, it added.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Richard Chang

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