significant-incidents-2016

Incidents at the Veladero Mine

Over the past two years, the company has experienced three separate incidents involving processing solution from the leach pad at the Veladero mine, the latest one being in March 2017. While these incidents posed no impact on human health or the environment, we recognize that they have severely damaged our license to operate in San Juan Province.

Prior to these incidents, we had spent ten years at Veladero building the kind of partnerships that epitomize our new Sustainability Vision. As is to be expected, the incidents severely damaged those relationships and weakened trust. They are, quite simply, unacceptable and we profoundly regret that they happened. We have taken numerous remedial actions to prevent a recurrence and increase transparency, including the installation of high-definition cameras to monitor the leach pad and other areas of the operation. These cameras provide a live feed on a continual basis that is available to the general public. Barrick will continue to leverage digital technology to help prevent a recurrence and will work tirelessly to rebuild the trust of the people of San Juan Province, where Veladero is located, and all of Argentina.

We understand that this will take time and hope that our actions will demonstrate our ability to deliver on our commitments.

March 2017 Incident

On March 28, 2017, a coupling on a pipe carrying gold-bearing solution at the Veladero mine heap leach facility failed. Solution released from the rupture was contained within the operating site and did not result in any impact on the environment or people. The Company promptly notified San Juan provincial authorities, who inspected the site on March 29. On March 30, the Government of San Juan province temporarily restricted the addition of cyanide to the Veladero mine's heap leach facility, pending the completion of works to strengthen and improve the mine's operating systems.

Barrick presented its proposed work plan to San Juan provincial authorities on April 21, 2017, following extensive consultation with both federal and provincial officials and regulators. The provincial government’s review involved the relevant federal authorities, including the national Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. Initial work on the proposed modifications to the heap leach facility is underway, concurrent with the review by provincial and federal authorities.

September 2016 Incident

On September 8, 2016, ice rolling down the slope of the leach pad at the Veladero mine damaged a pipe carrying process solution, causing some material to leave the leach pad. This material, primarily crushed ore saturated with process solution, was contained on the mine site adjacent to the leach pad and returned to the leach pad.

While cyanide solution was released from the ruptured pipe it was retained in secondary containment, but displaced an estimated 45 m3 of material out of secondary containment. After the material was returned to containment, no residual cyanide solution was detected in subsurface soils.

Extensive water monitoring in the area, conducted by the company, has confirmed that the incident did not result in any environmental impacts.

A temporary suspension of operations at the Veladero mine was ordered by the Provincial mining authority and a San Juan Provincial court on September 15, 2016, and September 22, 2016, respectively. On October 4, 2016, following, among other matters, the completion of certain urgent works required by the Provincial mining authority and a judicial inspection of the mine, the San Juan Provincial court lifted the suspension of operations and ordered that mining activities be resumed.

  • Sept 15 / 16: Temporary Suspension of Operations at Veladero Mine, available here
  • Oct 4 / 16: Barrick Announces Resumption of Operations at Veladero Mine, available here

September 2015 Incident at Veladero

On September 13, 2015, a valve on a leach pad pipeline failed, resulting in a release of cyanide-bearing process solution into a nearby waterway through a diversion channel gate that was open at the time of the incident.

The Company notified regulatory authorities of the situation. Environmental monitoring was conducted by the Company and independent third parties following the incident. This monitoring demonstrates that the incident posed no risk to human health at downstream communities. A temporary court order restricting the addition of new cyanide to the mine’s processing circuit was lifted on September 24, 2015, and mine operations subsequently returned to normal.

  • Sept 25 / 15: Processing restrictions at Veladero lifted, available here
  • Sept 30 / 15: Background on Veladero incident, available here
  • March 11 / 16: Update on Argentina Legal Action, available here

Impacts of 2015 Incident

The assessment that this incident did not pose any risk to human health is based on independent experts in the field, including provincial and national authorities, the National Water Institute (INA) and United Nations Office Project Services (UNOPS), as well as Barrick’s own assessment:

  • The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of the Province of San Juan stated that it "had knowledge that there was no impairment to the people, both in the mine and beyond this, nor to resources flora and fauna".
  • The National Water Institute (INA), after a detailed and robust investigation of the project area, including sampling of water in the Potrerillos, Las Taguas, Palca, Blanco and Jáchal rivers, concluded that "none of the samples collected and analyzed on the monitors conducted the 3rd, 19th, 20th and 22nd of October 2015 detected the presence of total cyanide above the limit (LC 0.0015 mg- / L)."

The United Nations Office Project Services(UNOPS), who made four monitoring campaigns throughout the project area in October 2015, concluded the following:

"Based on the analyses, the results have been reported by the laboratory to date, no evidence of impact on zones 4, 3 and 2, i.e., those farthest from the mine, can be attributed to the environmental incident. In zone 4, comprising the stretch upstream of the Cuesta del Viento dam and the Jáchal river downstream of the dam, there were no changes in water quality or the identified presence of cyanide compounds. In zone 3, corresponding to the waters of the Blanco River and outlets corresponding to the towns of El Chinguillo, Malimán and Angualasto water, whose sources correspond to different geomorphological environments of the Blanco river, there has been no evidence of variations in the quality of its waters and the presence of cyanide. In zone 2, corresponding to the section of the river Las Taguas from its confluence with the Turbio River to its joint with the La Palca and the La Palca to its confluence with the Blanco, we have not found variations in quality of water or found presence of cyanides. Moreover, generally speaking, there may be noted impacts associated with the environmental incident in Zones 0 and 11. These are physical in nature, associated with the presence of a significant amount of sediment in the area 0, and chemical nature as the presence of traces of cyanide and its degradation products, and certain metals."

In 2016, Barrick paid a $10 million fine in connection to the 2015 incident at Veladero.

1 The areas known as “zone 0" and "zone 1” by UNOPS correspond to the Upper Basin and the Potrerillos Valley (within the project), while the so-called "zone 2", "zone 3" and "zone 4" are outside of the project area and downstream.


To obtain copies of the reports referenced above, or if you have further questions, please contact responsiblemining@barrick.com.

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