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Barrick irritated by delay of Pascua Lama mine in Argentina, Chile

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Helen Popper
Thursday, March 6, 2008

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Barrick Gold Corp. is "disappointed" that tax and permitting issues are still delaying the start of construction of its $2.4 billion Pascua Lama mine, a company spokesman said on Thursday.

The project, which straddles the snowcapped peaks of the Andes between Argentina and Chile, needs the two countries to agree on how to share tax proceeds, and some permits are also outstanding.

Due to onset of the southern hemisphere's winter, full-scale construction cannot start until September at the earliest -- if the tax and permitting issues are resolved by then.

Barrick Chief Executive Greg Wilkins said during a mining conference in Toronto on Wednesday that he was "disappointed" by the lack of progress on the tax issue.

"It's been going in for some time and that's why he expressed his disappointment at the lack of progress. We've been at it since July 2004," company spokesman Vince Borg said by telephone.

"Until we're satisfied with respect to the clarity around the fiscal and tax issues, and until we have all the remaining permits in hand, we won't commence with the construction," he added.

Borg said Chilean and Argentine officials were due to meet again this week to discuss the tax-sharing arrangement.

Pascua Lama holds at least 17 million ounces of gold. Once it is a mine, Pascua Lama also will be the world's largest single source of silver.

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