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Barrick Gold near Pueblo Viejo tailings decision

Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX)(NYSE: GOLD) is close to reaching an agreement with the government of the Dominican Republic on where to build a new tailings storage facility (TSF) for its $1.3 billion Pueblo Viejo gold mine.

The world’s second largest gold producer had warned last year that production at the mine would have to end in 2030 without a new mining waste depository.

Building a new dam is part of the planned expansion for Pueblo Viejo, which will extend its productive life beyond 2040.

It will also enable the mining of lower grades in the existing deposit, supporting annual output of more than 800,000 ounces of gold.

The decision to proceed with the expansion was made in March 2020. Barrick has been working with nearby communities since then, which doesn’t mean it has not faced opposition. 

In May last year, 87 environmental and aid groups signed a letter challenging the both the mine expansion and the construction of the related tailings dam. They claimed it would pose risks to the environment and threat locals’ rights. 

In an attempt to win community backing, Barrick agreed in August to an independent environmental assessment of the project, led by the government of Dominican Republic.

“In recent days we have been… discussing already the final aspects [of the assessment] to announce to the country, at any moment, a definitive solution relating to the definite location of the tailings dam and its conditions,” energy and mines minister Antonio Almonte told local daily Diario Libre this week.

Imminent announcement

Delivering 2021 results, Barrick’s chief executive Mark Bristow said that the selection and permitting process for the new tailings storage facility was underway.

“Once completed, and this is important, the project will deliver a super mine capable of producing more than 800,000 ounces of gold per year, up and beyond – up to and beyond 2040. And in fact, most of that period, it’s above 900,000 ounces a year, and we have two years where we go over 1 million ounces,” Bristow said in the earnings call.

Pueblo Viejo is a 60-40 joint venture between Barrick and Newmont (NYSE: NEM)(TSX: NGT).

The Canadian miner expects to produce between 400,000 and 440,000 ounces of gold from its portion of the mine this year.

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