Barrick Gold Corporation initiated a prefeasibility study to evaluate the construction of an underground mine at Lama (San Juan province), on the Argentinean side of the Pascua-Lama project. Optimization work in Chile remains underway.
Following a detailed review of multiple development options for Pascua Lama in 2016, both open-pit and underground, Barrick initiated a prefeasibility study to evaluate the construction of an underground mine at Lama. The study will evaluate the use of low-cost bulk mining methods, including sub-level cave and block cave mining, designed to target higher-value ore on the Argentinean side of the border in the initial stages of the operation. Cash flow from Lama could support a staged development that would, over time, incorporate ore from the Chilean side of the border, subject to additional permitting in Chile. Efforts in Chile this year will focus on advancing project concepts in parallel with the Lama study, with the intention of moving to a prefeasibility level study in 2018.
Conceptually, initial ore processing at Lama would be undertaken using one of three partially completed processing streams at the site, with a capacity of approximately 15,000 tonnes per day. Existing infrastructure could be scaled up to 25,000 tonnes per day at a later date. An underground mine would reduce the surface footprint of the operation and would be less susceptible to weather-related production interruptions during the winter season.