Colombia environmental authority shelves Soto Norte mine license application

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s environmental authority has shelved the licensing application for the proposed Soto Norte gold project as it was unable to reach a decision based on information supplied by Sociedad Minera de Santander S.A.S (Minesa), it said on Saturday.

Owned by the government of Abu Dhabi through its investment arm Mubadala Investment Corp. [MUDEV.UL], Minesa’s plans for the project - located in Colombia’s Santander province - included producing some 410,000 ounces of gold per year with an estimated mine life of 20 years.

The decision to shelve the environmental licensing application was based on technical arguments drawn from evaluation of an impact study and answers given by Minesa in response to requirements made by the National Authority for Environmental Licenses (ANLA).

“As a consequence of analysis on the environmental impact study and on information subsequently provided by the company, the ANLA technical team established it was not possible to issue a decision on the merits of the mining project, so it had to be archived,” ANLA said in a statement.

The gold project has faced strong opposition from environmentalists and local residents who have said the mine will negatively impact water resources in the area.

The licensing process involved more than 44,000 participants, guaranteeing citizen participation and access of information for communities living near the proposed project, ANLA said.

ANLA will now relay the decision to Minesa and relevant third parties, who will be able to appeal the outcome, it said.

Minesa, which previously said the project would generate 5,000 jobs and that it was prepared to invest $1 billion in the five years following the grant of an environmental license, was not immediately available to comment.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Daniel Wallis