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Montreal (AFP) Sept 26, 2013
Chile's high court has upheld an order temporarily suspending construction of what would be the world's biggest gold mine over environmental concerns, Canadian mining firm Barrick Gold announced Thursday.
The multi-billion dollar Pascua-Lama project, which straddles Chile's border with Argentina at an altitude of 4,000 meters (13,200 feet), was launched in 2009.
But local groups launched a legal battle to halt its construction, citing concerns over possible environmental damage to a river.
A lower court earlier this year ordered the suspension of the open-pit mine's construction.
The Supreme Court in its ruling, Barrick said, requires the company to "complete Pascua-Lama's water management system in compliance with the project's environmental permit to the satisfaction of Chile's Superintendence of the Environment before resuming construction activities in Chile."
Barrick spokesman Andy Lloyd noted that the indigenous Diaguita people in northern Chile had asked for "stronger sanctions or to invalidate (the company's) environmental license, which the Supreme Court rejected."
The plan submitted to Chilean regulatory authorities estimates completion of the water management system by the end of 2014, Barrick said.
Construction of critical mine infrastructure on the Argentina side, including a processing plant and a tailings storage facility, were not affected by the legal battle.
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