Friday, November 2, 2007

In Chile, Precious Lands Often Go for a Pittance - Barrick Gold Corporation Pays $19 Dollars for 20,000 Acres

SANTIAGO, Chile -- The mountainous terrain of northern Chile is studded with precious metals, a natural cache that for years has had investors angling for land rights.

So when the world's largest gold mining company targeted about 20,000 acres owned by Rodolfo Villar, a mineral speculator, he signed a contract. Only later, he said, did he realize how much the company had agreed to pay him:

About $19.

Villar, who regularly grabs local land rights if he thinks they might be worth something, said he thought the deal was worth $1 million, not an amount that proved to be less than the cost of a bus ticket from Santiago back to his house. Additionally, the finer points of the contract stipulated that he would be fined $95,000 if he tried to obtain rights to any other parcels in the surrounding area.

Villar sued the company, Canada's Barrick Gold Corp., arguing that he had been deceived. This year, a Chilean judge ruled in his favor, saying that the company had essentially swindled Villar, and ordered the lands returned to him.

Here is the full story.