SANTIAGO, May 28 (Reuters) - Canadian miner Barrick Gold has come to an initial agreement with local communities who have opposed its massive Pascua-Lama mine, which will help clear the way for the stalled South American project to go ahead, a Chilean newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Barrick, the world’s largest gold miner, halted the gold and copper project on the Chilean and Argentine border last year, having ploughed $5 billion into it.
The mine, which the local Diaguita people had strongly opposed, had already been frozen by environmental regulators in Chile over demands that it needed to build infrastructure to prevent water pollution.
But a memorandum of understanding was struck at the end of April with 15 of the 18 local communities, newspaper La Tercera reported on Wednesday, a first step towards a “social licence” for the mine.
The agreement will last six months and during that time Barrick will hand project details to the community for them to corroborate with experts. Should this end positively, Barrick will enter a dialogue phase that could last up to two years, and may include the payment of an “indigenous royalty”, the paper said.
Barrick would not be able to restart construction until the dialogue phase was complete, it added.
The company recently indicated to the Chilean mining ministry that it was keen to proceed with Pascua-Lama, the minister told Reuters last week.
Barrick declined to comment on the report when contacted by Reuters. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)