(Adds context, more details on spill)
By Nicole Mordant
DENVER, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold’s Veladero gold mine in Argentina, one of its five core mines, could resume operations in the next two weeks, Barrick President Kelvin Dushnisky said in an interview on Monday.
“I am hopeful that it could be up and going in that kind of two-week window depending on how the reparation work goes,” Dushnisky said.
Barrick Gold said on Thursday that mine operations were temporarily suspended by the government after a “small quantity” of processing solution containing cyanide leaked outside a processing area.
This is the second cyanide spill in just over a year at Veladero. Barrick was fined nearly $10 million by authorities in the Argentinian province of San Juan for last year’s leak, which was caused by a defective valve.
In the most recent leak, the solution flowed over a berm, or raised bank, surrounding the leach pad where gold is processed, after a pipe was damaged on Sept. 8 by a large block of ice that rolled down a valley slope.
As part of the repair work, Barrick, the world’s biggest gold producer, will raise the height of the berm, Dushnisky said on the sidelines of the Denver Gold Forum.
The restart will be subject to the provincial government inspecting the work. The government has been “very responsive” in the past, Dushnisky said.
Barrick has not publicly released figures on the volume of the latest spill.
Presuming the repair work is finished within two weeks, “we don’t anticipate any material impact to the project guidance,” he said. Barrick forecasts Veladero will produce between 580,000 ounces and 640,000 ounces of gold this year.
Barrick has had no discussions with regulators yet about any fines for the latest spill.
Veladero’s executive general manager Rick Baker has stepped down since the spill but is still employed by Barrick.
Barrick’s shares ended Monday’s session down 0.74 percent at C$22.71, while the S&P/TSX Global Gold Index was up 0.76 percent. (Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Denver; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Phil Berlowitz)