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Gold Fields Ltd.'s flagship $860 million expansion project in Chile has stumbled over a large rodent, whose prized fur saw it hunted to the brink of extinction.
The Johannesburg-based gold miner must come up with a new plan to move more than 20 short-tailed chinchillas from its Salares Norte site after Chile's environmental agency halted its original relocation program when two out of four animals died. The project in the country's Atacama region is one of the last wild refuges of the bluish-grey furred rodent.
The plan, which will be submitted to the environmental authority, will involve relocating the chinchilla colony about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away from the mine to an area where another 100 of the rodents live, Gold Fields said.
Despite the challenges of relocating the endangered chinchillas, Gold Fields said it's still on track to start producing gold at Salares Norte in early 2023. Output from the mine is key to helping Chief Executive Officer Chris Griffith meet a target of boosting annual output to about 2.8 million ounces.