Chile’s Top Court Halts Goldcorp’s El Morro Mine

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile’s Supreme court on Tuesday suspended the development of the El Morro mine owned by Canada’s Goldcorp after siding with indigenous groups that oppose it on environmental grounds.

The top court ordered the project’s environmental permit be withdrawn until the Diaguita indigenous community is consulted about the $3.9 billion gold and copper mine. In doing so, it overturned a lower court decision dismissing an appeal the Diaguita filed in April.

“The Diaguita people are happy that justice is on the side of the humble, of those who defend Mother Earth, our water resources and our indigenous land,” Diaguita leader Maglene Campillay said after the ruling.

Goldcorp, which is based in Vancouver, owns 70 percent of the mine. New Gold Inc. owns the remaining 30 percent. Goldcorp is now reviewing the ruling to determine its next step, said company spokeswoman Christine Marks.

“Goldcorp remains committed to open and transparent dialogue with its stakeholders and to responsible practices in accordance with the highest applicable health, safety and environmental standards,” Marks said.

Chile, the world’s top copper producer, has some of Latin America’s most stable ground rules for mining, an industry the country relies on for most of its economy. But even here, mining and energy projects have been delayed as environmentalists and indigenous communities go to court demanding tougher protections for nearby populations and natural resources.

Last year, Chile’s environmental regulator blocked work at Barrick Gold Corp’s $8.5 billion Pascua-Lama. The project straddling the Argentina-Chile border has faced rising costs, falling gold prices and environmental lawsuits by Diaguita who live downstream from the mine and complain it threatens their water supply and pollutes nearby glaciers.

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