Barrick calls Veladero cyanide claims an 'unfounded controversy'

International gold miner Barrick has rejected claims of multiple cyanide spills at its Veladero mine in Argentina

 Barrick vehemently denies any wrong doing. Photo: Barrick Gold

Barrick vehemently denies any wrong doing. Photo: Barrick Gold

Barrick wrote in a sustainability update that the only "out-of-containment" incident at the mine occurred in 2015, refuting claims by a local NGO of more spills as an "unfounded controversy".

The 2015 occurrence saw cyanide-bearing process solution released from the Valley Leach Facility (VLF) into the Porterillos Stream, a nearby waterway in the San Juan region.

While Barrick admits two other incidents occurred involving Veladero's VLF, in 2016 and 2017, the company insists they did not result in an out-of-containment leak.

An NGO from the nearby local town Jáchal, named Asamblea de Jáchal No Se Toca ("Hands off of Jáchal"), claims there have been five spills of toxic substances from the Veladero mine (Argentina) from 2015 to 2022.

The group's allegations that these reached local rivers prompted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights to last year publish a letter expressing concerns over water contamination at the site.

Barrick vehemently denied the charges in a public response to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The company insists that each incident was reported through the proper channels. Environmental monitoring was also initiated and performed by Barrick and an independent third party following the September 2015 VLF breach.

This monitoring concluded that the "incident posed no risk to human health in downstream communities," states the November 2022 letter Barrick sent to the OHCRH addressing the allegations.  

The statement goes on to explain that the San Juan Government commissioned the United Nations Office for Project Services and the United Nations Environment Programme to conduct an impact assessment of the affected area.

The results concluded, "that there was no impact on the lower watershed areas where the nearest communities are located."

Monitoring has been enhanced since the singular breach in 2015, and an early warning system has been implemented. Also, the company said 500 water samples are collected monthly from 122 water sampling locations in the area.

During a live presentation on July 25, Duncan Pettit, group sustainability manager at Barrick, told viewers, "Over the past 18 months, allegations of repeated spills have been made publicly, and an official complaint was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Commission." 

"These allegations have all come from the same organisation," he said. "To be clear, they are entirely false."


The rest of the presentation highlighted how the company is working with local stakeholders and international agencies to achieve its ESG goals.

One area the company has seen success in is water conservation. During 2022 water recycling and reuse increased to 83%, and overall greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 6% year-over-year.

"We believe the mining industry is a catalyst for socio-economic development through the infrastructure we build, the jobs we create, the businesses we support through our supply chains and the investments we make in local communities," said Grant Beringer, Barrick's sustainability executive.

Last year we distributed more than US$15 billion in economic value, almost US$11 billion of which stayed in our host countries. A further US$36 million was invested in community development projects," Beringer said.

The next step in the company's sustainability plan is to use its multimillion-dollar purchasing power to get suppliers to "drive down" Scope Three emissions while also developing a tool to quantify its contribution to biodiversity conservation and regeneration.



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