Chilean court agrees to study new appeal against Pascua-Lama


SANTIAGO, Oct 11 (Reuters) - A Chilean appeals court hasagreed to examine a new appeal against Barrick Gold Corp's suspended Pascua-Lama gold mine that alleges theproject is hurting the environment and the quality of life forthe local population.

The country's Supreme Court and environmental regulator havealready frozen construction of the mine because of "significantenvironmental harm." The suspension is poised to be lifted oncea water management system is complete.

But the new appeal charges that the mine engaged in "illegaland arbitrary acts," referring to the "installation, executionand realization of works and activities ... that were notauthorized by the environmental regulator (SMA)."

The legal action, presented by lawyer Barbara Salinas, seeksa new freeze on Pascua-Lama.

The local Antofagasta Court of Appeals will study the appeal, a spokesman for Chile's court system said on Friday. Itwas not yet clear when it might issue a decision or how it mightrule.

Salinas told Reuters it was tricky to predict when a rulingmight be issued but that she expected it "as soon as possible."

Toronto-based Barrick declined to comment.

The latest action against the $8.5 billion project,originally forecast to produce 800,000 to 850,000 ounces of golda year, came just weeks after the Supreme Court rejected a moveto strike down the mine's environmental permit.

A group of indigenous Chileans had asked the top court torescind Barrick's license, arguing that environmental damagefrom the mine, which straddles the Chilean and Argentine border,warranted a re-evaluation of the project.

Pascua-Lama's supporters say its environmental impact willbe limited and that the massive mine will provide employment andhelp boost copper powerhouse Chile's mining-dependent economy.

Environmental and social groups counter that the mega-miningproject will damage pristine glaciers, strain and pollute thewater supply and harm agricultural activity in the area.

Barrick has stopped construction on the project andsubmitted a plan for water management infrastructure to the SMA.The miner said in June that Pascua-Lama, on which it has alreadyspent $5.4 billion, had been delayed until mid-2016.

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