Barrick Gold is Facing a $9.3 Million Fine Over Cyanide Spill in Argentina Last Year

By Staff Writer

Mar 14, 2016 07:05 AM EDT

Canadian gold mining company Barrick Gold is facing a fine of $9.3 million over a cyanide spill in Argentina. The mining company caused the spill at the company's Veladero mine, leaking a million liters of cyanide into a river in western San Juan province.

The incident happened in September, and the case has been processed by the Argentina authorities. A police report shows that five rivers in San Juan province were contaminated by the spill. However, recent reports released by Barrick revealed that there was no health risk for local residents or the environment. Tests by U.N. investigators conducted in October also showed that the spill had not contaminated local water supplies.

Barrick Gold stated that the spill was caused by individual acts of the company's employees, and currently, nine defendants are being accused of negligence that caused the cyanide spill. A spokesman for Barrick, Andy Lloyd, told Bloomberg that the company is not a party to any criminal cases. "The individuals are being represented by their own lawyers. As with any criminal case, there is a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise and as such we are providing support to the individuals affected," Lloyd wrote in an e-mail.

Even so, the San Juan provincial government has expressed their intention to impose a fine against Barrick. The world's largest gold producer could be fined for more than $9.3 million. "With this fine, we are protecting the development of mining activities in the province," the governor of San Juan province Sergio Unac, as reported by Reuters.

Argentinian state-run news agency concluded that Barrick committed mining code violations. Other than a failure to ensure safety rules, the company is also blamed for failing to comply with monitoring and contingency plans and report the incident to the local authority.

In a statement, Barrick president Kelvin Dushnisky has responded that the company has "implemented a comprehensive action plan to strengthen controls and safeguards at the mine while addressing the root causes of the solution release." He also expressed the company's deep regret for this incident that has disappointed many of their partners in San Juan province. "The company is committed to ensuring we have robust policies and standards in place that protect the environment at all of our operations," he added.

Local activists have been campaigning, demanding the Veladero mine to be closed over concerns of contaminations. According to GlobalPost, Greenpeace also called on the local government to immediately close the mine because there is evidence that there was contamination.

Besides the nine employees being accused of negligence, the Barrick Gold company is also facing a fine of more than $9.3 million imposed by the San Juan province government. The company stated that they are addressing the causes and solutions of the cyanide spill happened six months ago. 

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