* Says operations to proceed at Cortez Hills
* Additional environmental assessment to proceed in tandem (Adds details on production outlook, background)
TORONTO, April 14 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) said on Wednesday that a U.S. district court has ruled it can continue mining operations at its Cortez Hills gold mine in Nevada while additional environmental assessments on the project proceed.
In December, Barrick’s shares tumbled after a U.S. appeals court ruled that the project — which has faced opposition from local native Indian leaders and environmental groups — requires additional environmental analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. [ID:nN04153811]
The appeals court directed the District Court of Nevada to issue an injunction that could either halt all work at Cortez Hills, or stop only specific operations at the site.
In January, Barrick asked the district court to issue only a limited injunction that would allow work at its Cortez Hills mine in Nevada to continue while the U.S. Bureau of Land Management completes an additional study of three aspects of the project. [ID:nN26105041]
“The court has affirmed that the supplemental studies can be completed by the Bureau of Land Management without halting our operations,” said Greg Land, president of Barrick’s North American operations, in a statement.
The $500 million Cortez Hills mine is an expansion of Barrick’s existing Cortez mine. The expansion is one of the company’s key growth projects, with production from Cortez Hills expected to begin this year.
Barrick said its combined Cortez operations are expected to produce about 1.08 million to 1.12 million ounces of gold in 2010.
The project is one of three massive mine projects — Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic and Pascua Lama on the border of Chile and Argentina are the others — that Barrick expects to boost its production and lower its average cost as they open over the next few years.
Barrick said it expects its overall 2010 production to be between 7.6 million to 8 million ounces at total cash costs of $425 to $455 per ounce.
Shares of Barrick were up 1.1 percent at C$40.85 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning. ($1=$1.00 Canadian) (Reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by Peter Galloway)