Bogota, Colombia — MININGREVIEW.COM — 07 May 2009 – The government of Colombia has approved a temporary permit for AngloGold Ashanti Limited – the world’s third-largest gold producer – to carry out limited exploration work for the country’s La Colosa gold mine.
Making this announcement here, the Colombian Environmental Ministry said the permit allowed AngloGold to temporarily explore on a small portion of the site, but did not guarantee that the company would be granted later rights to mine gold from the project.
The mine is situated in the central Tolima province – where there are concerns over the area’s forest reserves – and the project has since become a point of discussion for some local lawmakers.
“This administrative act does not generate any right to exploit minerals,” the ministry emphasised. “Once the exploration work is completed the area will regain its status as a forest reserve, and the ministry is not obliged to grant any licence for full mining operations, it added.
The South African company reacted cautiously to the news.
Johannesburg-based AngloGold spokesman Alan Fine said: “We are encouraged by the reports we have read, but would prefer not to comment until we have seen the official government announcement published in the public gazette.”
Reuters reports that La Colosa has estimated reserves of more than 12 million ounces, and production could start within five years once work begins on the mine. Future output is estimated at 700 000 ounces of gold a year.
“The Colombian inspector-general’s office, which acts as a national ombudsman, is challenging the ministry’s decision on the grounds that mining operations would cause environmental damage,” said Oscar Amaya, who is a representative of the office.
The permit decision had been widely expected since AngloGold said earlier this year that it hoped to get a permit for what would be the country’s largest gold project. Colombia’s mines minister is also on record as saying that he expected a positive decision.