BIG TROUBLE For Barrick’s Pascua Lama Massive Gold Project

Regulators in Chile ordered the permanent closure of Barrick’s Pascua Lama Gold Project on their side of the border.  This is very bad news for Barrick because the majority of gold mine is located on the Chilean side of the project.  The massive Pascua Lama Gold Mine straddles the border and is situated in both Chile and Argentina.

According to Barrick’s mining plan, the large open-pit mine would be located predominantly in Chile, while the processing plant would be constructed and operated on the Argentinian side.  However, after years of protest by locals through government agencies as well as serious environmental concerns, on January 17th, the SMA, the Chilean Environmental Superintendence ordered the permanent closure of Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama open-pit gold mine project and imposed a fine of approximately $12 million on the company.

Now, Barrick’s official response was quite interested indeed:

The Pascua-Lama project is currently operating under a temporary closure plan in Chile. During this period, the Company has continued to manage all aspects of the project in a responsible manner.

The sanction is part of a re-evaluation process ordered by the country’s Environmental Court in 2014 and relates to historical compliance matters at the Pascua-Lama project. The revised sanction includes a reduction of the original administrative fine imposed by the SMA in 2013, from approximately $16 million to $11.5 million. Based on a preliminary review of the resolution, the SMA has not revoked Pascua-Lama’s environmental permit (RCA) but has ordered the closure of existing facilities on the Chilean side of the project, in addition to certain monitoring activities. The Company will complete a detailed analysis of these requirements and will provide further details in due course.

For new readers, Barrick is the largest gold mining company in the world with annual production over five million ounces per year.  There are two interesting aspects of Barrick’s response to Chile’s SMA mine closure.

First… Barrick states the Pascua-Lama Project is currently operating under a “temporary” closure plan in Chile.  While Barrick may be operating under the illusion of a TEMPORARY closure plan, Chile’s Environmental Superintendence has not only ordered the permanent closure of their side of the project; they also included the closure of all surface mine facilities.

Second… Barrick makes a positive claim that the SMA did not revoke Pascua-Lama’s environmental permit (RCA).  While this may be spun as a win by Barrick, the only reason Chile’s governmental agency did not revoke Barrick’s environmental permit was to be able to oversee the proper closure of the company’s project on their side of the border.

According to the article Complete and Permanent Closure of Pascua Lama: The Power of Conviction and Persistence, published on, Chile’s SMA did not revoke the environmental permit for the following reason:

(…) with the cancelation of the RCA, the state loses the normative basis for imposing environmental mitigation measures during project closure, which are fundamental to control environmental risks and damage.

So, what we see here is the difference between “Corporate Spin” of the situation versus the “actual legitimate reasons” by Chile’s governmental agency.  Chile’s SMA did not revoke Barrick’s environmental permit because they want the legal ability to manage any environmental risks or damages.

While some readers may view my stance on corporate corruption by large mining companies as being a “LEFTIST,” I rather look at it as what is “FAIR” for everyone.  Actually, I am quite surprised by individuals in the alternative media community who back these large corporate mining companies against the interests of the local populations in foreign countries.  I gather the mindset of these individuals in the alternative media community is that it’s okay to protest about the corruption by the Fed, Central Banks, and large corporations when it is impacting a person living in the WEST, but a different story entirely when it comes to the same principle applied to indigenous and local peoples in foreign countries.

For example, I have written several articles about the blatant disregard for local communities and their environmental concerns on Tahoe Resources Escobal Mine in Guatemala.  The Escobal Mine has been and continues to be plagued by the protest of large numbers of local peoples surrounding the mine.

While Guatemalan Supreme Court reinstated Tahoe’s Escobal Mine license on Sept 12th, after it was temporarily banned on July 6th, the legal battle continues as the mine is still plagued with ongoing local protests as well as a road blockade that delivers vital supplies to the mine.  With the company unable to continue operations, on Jan 15th, Tahoe Resources cut 25% of its workforce (250 people) at its mine.  The company stated that there could be more worker cuts if the legal battle drags on.

Okay, getting back to Barrick’s Pascua-Lama Project.  Because the Chilean Government has decided to protect the vital glaciers and the environment surrounding the Pascua-Lama Project, by forcing the company to close the project on their side of the border, Barrick has continued the construction of the processing plant on the Argentine side.  Barrick hopes to mine the smaller ore body on the Argentine side of the project as well as move forward with a plan to mine Chile’s ore body by utilizing an underground mine.

Unfortunately, Barrick does not understand when NO means NO.  While the company is putting out public statements that the environmental concerns of surface mining are in the past and that they plan to move forward with an underground mine, the Chilean locals and governmental agencies aren’t buying it.

Again, according to the MiningWatch article linked above:

Barrick asserts that the charges address past problems and claims it is now focused on a responsible future that envisions the option of an underground mine. The company claims that this proposal would addressing community concerns by reducing the project’s environmental impact.

Barrick’s actions speak louder than its words. During years of conflict over the Pascua Lama project, Barrick trampled local interests that respect and protect glaciers, water, and nature in general. It is precisely Barrick’s actions – and the importance and fragility of the ecosystems that they affect – that the SMA took into account in ordering the closure of the mine site.

At the Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA), we have accompanied the local community in its resistance to the ill-conceived Pascua Lama project since its inception 17 years ago. We have witnessed Barrick’s strategies to divide, co-opt, harass and discredit local actors; its financing of political campaigns; and the withdrawal of the state from the area, making communities dependent on the mining company for education, health care, and local development initiatives. We have exposed all of this as it occurred and countered it to the best of our abilities.

Projects like Pascua Lama are only made viable through corruption, the violation of human rights, and by putting at risk essential ecosystems.

You see, a massive gold mine the size of Pascua-Lama, with its serious environmental issues, would be very difficult to take place in a Western country where there are much more strict environmental standards enforced by governmental agencies.  However, in many third-world countries that are plagued with corrupt ruling parties, big corporate MONEY TALKS.

While I have no problem with mines that are opened with the majority of consent by all parties involved, future large corporate mega-mines that want to BUY their way to commercial mining status, by disregarding local concerns and environmental issues, are going to be dealing with an uphill battle… as it should be.

Lastly… for those large mega-mines that might be moving forward, without the support of local communities or governmental agencies, there is one positive force on your side.  The very energy that is used to make these mega-mines possible will peak and decline in a few short years.  Thus, without an energy source, these mines will likely DRY UP and BLOW away in the future.

We must remember, the Falling EROI – Energy Returned On Invested will impact the largest entities the most.  Thus, large corporations, large retail box store chains, large complex governmental agencies and even mega-mines will be affected the most.


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28 Comments on "BIG TROUBLE For Barrick’s Pascua Lama Massive Gold Project"

  1. Michael Kohlhaas | January 27, 2018 at 9:38 am |

    Short miners!!! Let’s see how this will play out!

  2. I would agree with all of that Steve

    Thai government did the same thing to the Chatree Gold Mine in Thailand a year ago.

  3. Hmmm.. environmental issues.. Maybe Chile wants it all, all the gold, as a reserve in its central bank, with collapsing fiat on the horizon, approaching fast.

    Wonder what news will come out of Mexico the coming 2 to 3 years in relation to remonetize silver.

    • Oh, i forgot, watch Chiles ‘proven’ gold reserve numbers in the coming years. Where have i heard that before?

    • I wouldn’t disagree with any of that either houtskool. It will be interesting to see what happens in West Papua and Papua New Guinea overtime as well.

    • houtskool,

      While I would imagine foreign countries could nationalize mines in the future, the situation at Barrick’s Pascua-Lama and Tahoe’s Escobal Mine are different. If Chile was going to nationalize the Pascua-Lama Mine and take the gold, they wouldn’t have done so until after the project was up and running, not before.

      Furthermore, there are SERIOUS environmental issues. Since Barrick took over the property in 1994, the size of the Glaciers in the area has declined significantly. The Pascua Lama area is very arid and the farmers and ranchers who get their water from the melting glaciers during the spring and summer. So, it is more than just a political tactic to grab gold reserves.


      • Thanks for insight. However, never underestimate the greed of governments in distress. It surpasses retail crypto buying, period. We have to agree to disagree, in my opinion, environmental issues are a very welcome excuse to provide the ‘hidden’ in their agenda.

        • houtskool,

          Of course, there are hidden agendas, but many (parts of) governments in third-world countries still understand the important relationship between the environment and its people. While we have totally disregarded environmental concerns in the West, only to do so to keep corporations legal, other countries see things differently. It is hard to understand that because we live in Western countries.

          Also, I agree with you there are hidden agendas and conspiracies going on. However, not everything has a hidden agenda or conspiracy tied to it.

          Let’s see if Chile goes back against their word and develops Pascua Lama… I doubt it. They don’t have the technical capability or the large capital expenditures that come with large multi-national corporations.


          • True, i do live in the rotten core. Maybe i read too much about our western financial system. Thanks for reply.

  4. Steve,

    The Pascua-Lama mine is one of the “high hanging fruits” that may never be picked. The wild west approach in third world countries is coming to an end, as the Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold in Indonesia exemplifies.

    You are, perhaps, more right than you may realize when you said “Of course, there are hidden agendas, but many (parts of) governments in third-world countries still understand the important relationship between the environment and its people.”

    Chile has come to rely on and believe in ecotourism. You can see this in their development (with partners)and marketing of their mountain water resources like the Footalafoo river course which has been a huge success. While development of gold mines is possible, like the two that are being developed in northern Canada, it can only be done with an environmental understanding of its importance and the welfare of the indigenous peoples. The only way Pascua-Lama mine will be realized is from the Argentina side, at least, until Chile catches them. The 17 million ounces of gold and 635 million ounces of silver, with 75 percent of the deposits in Chile and 25 percent in Argentina is a huge incentive to try and cheat.

    The same can probably be said of the Arctic oil deposits. It is definitely there but too expensive to mine.

    • Steve Welch,

      Barrick has hired some veteran to see what in the hell can be done on the Argentine side. As you can see, the majority of the ore body is on the Chilean side. However, there are Glaciers on the Argentine side but for whatever reason, the government doesn’t seem to be putting up much of a fight. Well, back prior to 2010, they did put up a fight, but the Argentine Supreme court suspended the law in that area because it would have hurt economic activity.

      But, both Chile and Argentina have laws protecting the Glaciers because they are the only source of water for the communities that receive their water from the meltwaters during the spring and summer.


  5. Tore Johansson | January 28, 2018 at 4:13 am |

    In an certain level of price of gold, all gold deposits will be mined😁

    • Tore Johansson,

      While that may make sense in the typical “Supply & Demand” metric if the price of gold heads up to $5,000+, we still need a lot of oil to mine gold. So, we are heading into a future of falling oil production. No matter how high the gold price will go, production will ultimately peak, and likely fall very fast.


  6. Back in 1979 a couple of family members of mine began a company which was set up to trade out of Vancouver. Their quest was to assume an old copper mine on the coast of Chile and extract gold and other metals from the massive amount exposed to the coast. It was not a huge operation and was physically run by a core division which made up Chilean people to operate the machines. The mine was actually an old AT&T mine to produce copper for future wiring manufacturing. The idea was to at first sift through the material left from past mining operations which had been spread out into the Pacific Ocean creating a delta of sorts. The reason for my sharing this story is that it was pretty obvious that AT&T did what they had to do to get what they wanted in copper but left the tailings out in the open for someone else to worry about. It was also obvious of the area, that the coastline was useless for further development. Needless to say, the company fell apart in short order as there was embezzling going on along with other problems within it. It sure taught me a lesson with how quickly partnerships can fizzle! All said these sort of punches taken at the Chilean environmental society must have had impacts towards their actions present day.

  7. Maybe barrick is too big for its own good. Should be broken up.

  8. This is Cowboys and Indians revisited. The western countries, like the cowboys, had guns and technology against which the Indians had no chance. Same way today for much of the undeveloped world. The western countries have all the technology, specifically the mining, drilling, and industrial capability. The targeted countries have no hope of repelling the eventual exploitation from what had started as a “foot in the door” mutually beneficial arrangement.

    I would, as a matter of comparison, like to see if copper mining companies in the Philippines are nationally or internationally owned, and how much corruption exists in determining whether these mines, with the dangerous runoff into the coral bearing waters (Cu is deadly toxic to the reefs), were shut down.

  9. It looks like lots of countries are waking up to the fact that 1 oz of gold in the ground, is better than selling it to western bankers at prices close to costs and even having the mining co..aka..Barrick..actually shorting gold by selling next years / 5 – years thus robbing their own investors/share holders.
    How rich did South africa become by selling 1100 TONS of gold a year in 1950-1971 at 35 us$ ..paper dollars where the official gold price was “locked” at 35$..only to explode to 850$ by 1980 and now they are still mining down to 2-3 + kms deep at increasing costs to cool the shafts.
    Ressouce prices are simply to low and manipulated and also working against the natural Entropy of increasing costs.
    As the west simply buys this gold with mere paper dollars to then store this gold in THEIR national bank basements demands the question, of why not pay the Countries to leave the gold in the ground and save the environment and resourses wasted.
    Save the planet and that CO2 crap and simply…STOP gold mining, keep the gold and borrow at 1 % instead. Best long term pension plan for anybody and silver too. !!

  10. steve, on another note…I believe you feel the price of oil will drop? how will this take place if the dollar continues to fall?
    where do you see the price of oil a year from now? price/value of dollar? price of gold/silver?

  11. Nothing new regarding this project, it died years ago.

    • RD,

      Well, that’s where you are wrong. Barrick would still like to mine Chile’s ore body via an underground method and they are still moving forward with their construction of the processing facility in Argentina.

      Before saying something ignorant… please make sure you catch up with your facts.

  12. That’s wonderful news.
    Ever since Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau got his golden handshake from American Barrick Resources I have looked forward to their bankruptcy. Ever since Prime Minister Brian Mulroney got his golden handshake from American Barrick Resources I have looked forward to their bankruptcy. Ever since President George Bush Sr. got his golden handshake from American Barrick Resources, and his knighthood from the Queen, I have looked forward to their bankruptcy.
    Rainbows and Sunshine are coming our way. Hooray, hooray!

  13. The paper below shows who is being the so called “human right violations and environment concerns” in the case of Tahoe’s Escobal Mine. It is probably the same for Barrick..

    Enjoy the reading.

    • philip,

      Yes, I have seen this paper and the rhetoric attached to this ideology. I would kindly like to remind you that Tahoe Resources hired a military security company to secure the mine site from day one. I gather you didn’t read about this in the news over the past five years:

      Tens of Thousands Oppose Tahoe Resource’s Escobal Project in Guatemala

      Tuesday, December 17, 2013
      (Guatemala City/Ottawa) Contrary to Tahoe Resources’ recent claims, tens of thousands of people oppose its Escobal project in southeastern Guatemala. Repression and violence have been the outcome of company and government efforts to install the project without social support. A recent high-court decision in Guatemala reinforces the legitimacy and importance of local decision-making processes.

      More than half of the communities in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores, where the Escobal project is located, have declared opposition to the mine. In five neighbouring municipalities, in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, a majority have voted against the mine in municipal referenda, in which tens of thousands of people participated. The most recent vote took place on November 10th in the municipality of Jalapa, department of Jalapa. Over 23,000 people participated with 98.3% voting against mining and 1.7% in favour.

      Or Philip…. did you read about this GEM in the news that Michael Waller didn’t include in his WHITEWASHED REPORT:

      Tahoe Resources executive in Guatemala orders killing of protestors

      “The preliminary investigations found that Rotondo gave the order to attack the community, he also ordered the crime scene to be cleaned up and change the police report.”

      The information reveals Rotondo making several statements: “God dam dogs, they do not understand that the mine generates jobs”. “We must eliminate these animals’ pieces of shit”. “We can not allow people to establish resistance, another Puya no”. “Kill house sons of Bitches”

      Rotondo was apprehended at the airport La Aurora, when he trying to flee the country. Wire tapping of conversations between him and his son reveal that he planned to leave Guatemala for a while, because “I ordered to kill some of these sons of Bitches.”

      Philip…. did you read Waller’s bio: Michael Waller is a scholar-practitioner who specializes in strategic influence, strategic communication, international political organization and communication, political and psychological warfare, and related fields. He holds a PhD in international security affairs from Boston University (1993).

      Michael Waller is what a perfect example of what is WRONG WITH THIS WORLD. Come on Philip, one of his specialties is PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE


  14. In this article, you wrote about the Tahoe’s Escobal Mine and you said that “you want be fair to everyone” but your so called fairness is based on wrong information. In short, you have been manipulated by the mafia NGOs. One interesting thing indicated in the paper that I sent is that per instance the NGOs try just to SHUT DOWN the mines ( not to improve the worker’s situation or the environment) and just the mines belonging to Anglo interest, they will NEVER target per instance CHINESE INTERESTS!

    Lets see if you allow the publication of my comments along with the paper attached!

  15. Steve.

    It doesn’t matter who write the report ( please note that inside the report many sources are cited… ) I do not agree with you because of the facts.

    = The main one is that the Local and INGO want only shut down the mines. Its what they did already in LATAM with several mines. Beside their appealing rhetoric ( protect the environment, peoples health ) it’s just what they want. Is that in the interests of the workers ? Of course, NOT !
    If the NGOs had the well being of the locals in mind they will help them to get BETTER conditions from the mine owners not to get the mines closed !

    Let me to give you an example. There are 20 years that I live in several Asian countries and mostly of the time the locals want to work for FOREIGN companies. Why ? Because they get (far) better salaries and consideration ! Why would it be different in Guatemala ?

    = The so called “legal basis” of the NGO actions is ILO169. But ILO 169 was not set up to make the local populations DECIDE or not about a mine. This decision depend of the government. Few days ago, it’s just what has been said by an ILO official ( I can supply the source if you are interested to know the facts -in spanish-).

    =Then regarding the “ consultas “ that should have taken place among the tribal population before the opening of the mine, the local NGOs where out of luck because in the mine perimeter there was NO tribal population. NO problem they have brought tribal populations from far away !
    “Datas obtained in 2012 by Guatemalan authorities with the National Registry of Persons (RENAP), found that there were no Xinka indigenous people at all in San Rafael las Flores – the location of the Escobal mine.”

    The consultation results that you cite are biased because mostly of the time they are got under duress. Do not forget that the CALAS in Guatemala is linked to the URNG which was a Cuban backed guerrilla army during war time. Do you think that these peoples are soft ? If you believe that I would said that you are naive.

    By contrast, all of the 18 authoritative local development councils, called cocodes, voted in favor of the mine. Representatives of four of them went to Guatemala City to hold a news conference to denounce CALAS and two other NGOs for interfering in the town’s affairs. The consultas had no authoritative status or legal standing, they said, adding that the consulta organizers manipulated small numbers of people to oppose the mine and stir up conflict.36

    = Another very interesting fact is that these NGOs ( local in International like the CIEL ) are targeting ONLY the Anglo interest. If you are a local or Chinese owner of a Mine they will not try to frame you even if you destroy the environment and/or kill your workers !

    In Asia we have also something close. We have INGO coming in Asia to fight against pedophiles. That’s great, its a noble goal but then they will target ONLY the white men, never the locals nor the chinese ! Why ?

    = Finally, what I feel shocking is that the US Embassy ( Ambassador Robinson, now in Venezuela ) applied a lot of pressure on the Guatemalan law makers to have a corrupt ( I can also supply the sources in spanish to you ) lawmaker named as President of the Constitutional Court that will have to know the Tahoe’s case !

    Steve I understand your reaction, its called cognitive dissonance !
    You have to be strong, its just a question of ego.


  16. Hi Steve,

    Re.Prof Waller you wrote :
    Come on Philip, one of his specialties is PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE

    Just what is needed to face the NGOs AT WAR against the Anglo mining interest !

  17. euclides de oliveira pinto neto | February 8, 2018 at 7:13 am |

    A empresa Barrick produz mais de 5 milhões de toneladas de ouro/ano ? Acho que ocorreu uma falha de redação ou de versão… a produção mundial de ouro é muito menor…


    Does Barrick produce more than 5 million tonnes of gold / year? I think there has been a drafting or version failure … the world production of gold is much smaller …

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