Yesterday afternoon, the Chilean environmental tribunal handed down a decision on glaciers at the Barrick Pascua Lama gold project on the Chile/Argentina border. As it was a favourable ruling for the company, within about 14 nanoseconds they’d released this NR on the subject:
Chile’s Environmental Court Rejects Claims that Pascua-Lama has Damaged Glaciers
TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – Mar 23, 2015) – Barrick Gold Corporation (ABX.TO)(ABX.TO) –Chile’s Environmental Court has today ruled that the Pascua-Lama project has not damaged glaciers within the project’s area of influence.
“Preserving and protecting glaciers from harm is essential to the work we do every day at Pascua-Lama,” said Eduardo Flores, Barrick’s Executive Director for Chile. “That is why Barrick worked with leading independent experts and glaciologists to develop and implement one of the most rigorous glacier monitoring programs anywhere in the world. We are pleased that the court has confirmed what the technical and scientific evidence demonstrates, that these ice bodies have not been damaged by activities at the Pascua-Lama project.”
Pascua-Lama’s comprehensive glacier monitoring program captures data from 27 points and provides results directly to regulatory authorities.
Barrick remains committed to working with stakeholders and local communities in Chile to advance Pascua-Lama in an environmentally responsible manner, respecting its legal and regulatory requirements.
The Pascua-Lama team is focused on resolving the project’s outstanding legal and regulatory hurdles, completing a new execution plan to optimize remaining construction activities and minimizing ongoing project costs.
Good news travels quickly and bad news travels slowly, they say. ABX has never been this sharp on Pascua Lama news when the calls go against the company but hey, can’t really blame them for that. Anyway, what’s notable about the ABX news release isn’t what’s in there but what’s not in there. Let’s start with that headline, “Chile’s Environmental Court Rejects Claims that Pascua-Lama has Damaged Glaciers”, as it’s more than a little misleading:
1) When ABX says “glaciers” the nicely-worded implication is “all glaciers” in the project’s area of influence, an idea that’s reinforced in the body of the NR. In fact, we’re only talking about three specific and small bodies of ice water here, the Toro 1, Toro 2 and Esperanza zones, plus the Toro river as a run-off of those three. This map shows Toro 1 and Toro 2 marked (Esperanza is right next to them but not marked) plus the Toro river, which runs off to both the Chile and Argentina side.
2) Toro 1, Toro 2 and Esperanza are not even true glaciers. They are in fact technically speaking “periglaciers” which are zones of ice that collect around real glaciers, are not deep and tend to ebb and grow rapidly (or relatively rapidly in glacier-time). They are the bodies of water closest to the Pascua Lama mine border but they’re by far from the only ones and they’re also very small compared to the real glaciers in the area of direct influence that you see marked (the Guanaco, Amarillo, Los Amarillos and Estrecho, all noted on the above map).
3) This court action was brought by locals specifically concerning the Toro 1, Toro 2 and Esperanza periglaciers. Now for sure it’s a win for ABX that the Chilean court has ruled in its favour here, but don’t think for a second that it’s all over for the company because they have a whole stack of litigation to get through yet on this subject, with most cases carrying far more gravitas than the one so quickly trumpeted yesterday.
The moral of this story is ultimately the typical one you need to use when reading any mining company NR, not just ABX and not just about Pascua Lama: Don’t swallow the company line whole. Ever. It’s bad for your financial health if you do.