(Reuters) – Civil society groups on Tuesday urged Canada’s Barrick Gold Corp to halt the expansion of its Pueblo Viejo gold mine in the Dominican Republic, citing risks posed by increased waste from the site and threats to the rights of local communities.
Barrick has proposed a $ 1.3 billion expansion of the processing plant and the installation of a waste storage facility to extract lower-grade ore and extend the life of the mine until 2040.
Pueblo Viejo is located about 100 km northwest of capital Santo Domingo and is operated by a joint venture in which Barrick owns 60% and Newmont Corp the remainder.
On Tuesday, 87 environmental and aid groups signed a letter opposing the expansion and construction of a mining waste storage facility, known as a tailings dam.
Police and the military used tear gas on April 27 to disperse protesters who opposed the mine, Jan Morrill of the environmental nonprofit Earthworks said at Barrick’s virtual shareholders meeting on Tuesday.
Barrick Chief Executive Mark Bristow said “naysayers” had prevented more than 200 people from participating in a community meeting to discuss the expansion.
“There was a great disturbance and the police used tear gas to disperse a group of people,” he explained during the session broadcast on the Internet.
Barrick said in its annual report that the plant is being upgraded to handle an annual throughput of 14 million tons and negotiations are underway to secure land for the proposed new tailings storage facility.
(Reporting by Jeff Lewis in Toronto. Edited in Spanish by Rodrigo Charme)