Argentina suspends Canada's Barrick mining over spill

San Juan's province Mining Minister Alberto Hensel (C) speaking during a press conference in San Juan, west of Argentina on March 30, 2017

Argentina suspended Canadian mining company Barrick Gold on Thursday after the firm admitted to a new spill at a mine in the Andes mountains, its third in two years.

Barrick said Wednesday that a pipeline at its Veladero gold and silver mine had sprung a leak the day before, spilling liquid used in the mining process.

It insisted there were no toxic chemicals in the spill, but environmental groups called for the company to be banned.

The governor of the western province of San Juan, Sergio Unac, ordered Barrick to halt metal separating operations until the pipeline is repaired.

A local judge backed that up in a separate ruling, saying the repeated spills at the mine suggested a "failure of its hydraulic system."

In September 2015, the Veladero mine was hit by a million-liter (260,000-gallon) spill of cyanide solution.

Nine Barrick directors were charged over that spill, and the company had to pay a fine of $9.3 million.

A year later there was another cyanide solution spill, though the company insisted none of it came into contact with water sources or drainage channels.

The Argentine environment ministry has sent a team of experts to investigate the latest spill.