Canada-based Barrick Gold has completed the Phase 6 construction of a heap leach facility at the Veladero gold-silver mine in Argentina, the company said in a statement.
The facility will create 640 local jobs, CEO Mark Bristow said, and Barrick will focus on recruiting women. Around 99% of Barrick's workforce is Argentinian, in line with the company's local employment policy.
Barrick will also begin Phase 7 of Veladero development, investing US$140 million to extend the mine leach valley, Bristow said.
"This is for the construction of the Valley Leach Facility," a spokesperson told Mining Magazine, adding that the project includes earthworks, civils, liner, drains, filter materials, piping, further engineering work, installation and contract management of the next phase of the valley leach facility.
The company is also looking to extend the mine life. Last year, Bristow said Veladero's mine life had been extended by at least 10 years. The plan was to extend it further beyond 2030 and elevate it to a Tier One asset producing more than 500,000 ounces of gold.
By the end of October, Veladero will be connected to Chile's national power grid, the company said. To power Veladero, Barrick used a diesel power plant, using 23 million litres of fuel annually. This development will lower 100,000 tonnes per year of greenhouse gas emissions. Barrick has set targets of reducing emissions of 30% by 2030, and net zero by 2050.
Barrick is evaluating drill targets along the El Indio belt, located near Veladero. It is also evaluating prospects in Quevar, as part of an earn-in agreement signed in April 2020 with Colorado-based Golden Minerals. In addition to acquiring US$1m in Golden Mineral shares, Barrick must spend US$10m on exploration over the next 8 years to earn a 70% interest in the silver project, as well as produce a prefeasibility study demonstrating mineral resources of at least 2 million gold ounces.
The company also said it would decide in 2024 whether it will move forward with the Lama gold-silver project. The Lama project, in Argentina, was part of the Argentina-Chile based Pascua-Lama project. Barrick was forced to shutter Pascua in Chile in September 2020.
Veladero is a 50/50 joint venture between Barrick and Shandong Gold. The mine is forecast to produce between 130,000 and 150,000 ounces of gold. The mine has 3.1 million ounces of measured and inferred ounces of gold.