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A government lawyer acknowledged Monday that the Trump administration will miss its first court-imposed deadline to reunite about 100 immigrant children under age 5 with their parents. Department of Justice attorney Sarah Fabian said during a court hearing that federal authorities reunited two families and expect to reunite an additional 59 by Tuesday’s deadline. She said the other cases are more complicated, including parents who have been deported or are in prison facing criminal charges, and would require more time to complete reunions. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the administration to reunite families separated as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, said he will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to get an update on the remaining cases. He said he was encouraged to see “real progress” in the complicated reunification process after a busy weekend when officials from multiple federal agencies tried to sync up parents and children who are spread across the country. STORY FROM LENDINGTREE Crush your mortgage interest with a 15 yr fixed “Tomorrow is the deadline. I do recognize that there are some groups of parents who are going to fall into a category where it’s impossible to reunite by tomorrow,” he said. “I am very encouraged by the progress. I’m optimistic.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who leads a lawsuit against the federal government, sounded more skeptical. When asked by the judge if he believed the government was in full compliance of the court order, Gelernt said there was much more work to be done. “Let me put it this way: I think the government in the last 48 hours has taken significant steps,” he said. “We just don’t know how much effort the government has made to find released parents. I don’t think there’s been full compliance.” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. (Photo: U.S. District Court) The difficulty in reuniting the first 100 children shows the challenge that lies ahead as the Trump administration braces for another deadline in two weeks to reunite nearly 3,000 older children – up to age 17 – with their parents. The process is complicated because of all the different situations that emerged over the weekend. The government initially identified 102 children under age 5 who needed to be reunited but removed three children from that list because investigations into their cases revealed that those children came with adults who were not their parents, Fabian said. Twelve parents were found to be in federal and state custody on criminal charges, making a reunification impossible since the government can’t transfer minors to state and local prisons to protect the well-being of the child. Nine parents were deported, and the government established contact with only four of them, Fabian said. Four children had been scheduled to be released from government custody to relatives who weren’t their parents, leading the government to question whether to allow that process to be completed or to redirect the child back to a parent. Gelernt said he understood many of the hurdles but urged the judge to force the government to scrap its time-consuming investigation into every single case and start a 48-hour clock to reunify families that remain separated by Tuesday. Sabraw said he would decide that during Tuesday’s hearing. Fabian said one of the silver linings of the busy weekend is that her office worked closely with its challengers at the ACLU to share information on each child’s case, to ensure that representatives from immigration advocacy groups and volunteer organizations could be present during each reunification. Gelernt said they’re doing that to help the parents, who are often released from custody with no money and nowhere to go. Fabian said that coordination has led to a more formalized process between government agencies and with the immigrants’ lawyers that should make reunifications go more smoothly in the coming weeks. “I think this process over the weekend helped us see what information, and in what form, is the most useful to share,” she said. “I’d like to make that as efficient a process as possible.” -

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Dominican gold rush hits a bureaucratic slowdown

An overview of Barrick Gold Corporation's Pueblo Viejo gold mine is seen in Cotui

1 OF 5. An overview of Barrick Gold Corporation’s Pueblo Viejo gold mine, one of the world’s largest, is seen in Cotui December 11, 2013.

CREDIT: REUTERS/RICARDO ROJAS

(Reuters) – Little more than a decade ago, one of the world’s largest known gold deposits sat abandoned in the foothills of the Dominican Republic’s Central Cordillera mountain range. Car-sized boulders leached heavy metals into what locals called the “blood river,” its waters ran so red from contaminants.

Today the mine, which reopened as Pueblo Viejo this year, hums with activity. Trucks withtires twice the size of an SUV roll through its massive open pits on roads that cut through the 11-square-kilometer site (4.24 square miles), transporting tons of rock to a processing facility.

Some 2,000 people already work here, churning out shimmering gold bars that are exported to Canada and the United States, but the mine has the potential to create 12,700 more direct and indirect jobs and contribute $1.3 billion a year in exports.

This dynamic, foreign-operated enterprise is part of the country’s effort to develop an industry that could help boost and diversify its tourism-dependent economy.

Yet despite robust commercial production by two of the world’s largest gold mining companies, Canada’s Barrick Gold Corp and Goldcorp Inc, development of the mining sector is vexed by bureaucratic delays and agitation by activists still concerned about pollution and government deals with foreign companies to exploit the nation’s riches.

At stake are billions of dollars and thousands of jobs in a country of 10 million with high levels of unemployment and poverty.

DRINKING-WATER SAFETY

The river close by the mine is no longer bloody, but the destruction wrought by the Rosario mine – the site’s previous name when it was run by the government until it closed in 1999 – left mining with a dirty name locally.

When they took over the mine site, Barrick and Goldcorp launched an extensive cleanup and environmental protection program to prevent pollution of the nearby streams. The mine says it treats 40,000 cubic meters of contaminated water per day.

“We don’t release any water until it’s been tested and meets standards,” said Jorge Lobato, operations environmental superintendent at the mine. “There are very few mines that have this type of (waste removal) operation.”

Nevertheless, local community groups remained concerned that the heavy metals from exposed rock could end up in nearby waterways, and the opposition says it is in for the long haul.

“We’re fully prepared to mount campaigns against any future mining projects,” said Domingo Abreu, one of the organizers of the loose-knit groups opposing mining.

FORCING A SHREWDER FOREIGN CONTRACT

In the spring, making common cause with the environmentalists, political activists dismayed by sweetheart deals for foreign companies operating in the country waged a public campaign against the Pueblo Viejo mine.

The government was forced to renegotiate what critics said was an overly generous contract signed with the companies in 2009 by then-President Leonel Fernandez, whose ruling pro-business Dominican Liberation Party has looked for outside interests to develop key economic sectors, such as mining and tourism.

Since the party won relection last year, President Danilo Medina has sought to distance himself from Fernandez, and he soon became a critic of the contract himself. “For every $100 in gold exports, Barrick receives $97 and the Dominican people will receive $3,” Medina said in an address to Congress in February. “This is simply unacceptable.”

In May a new contract gave the Dominican government roughly 51 percent of gross profits, up from 37 percent under the original agreement, costing the owners more than $1 billion at the current market price.

It has not been an easy year for Barrick’s Latin American operations. Indefinite suspension of its Pascua-Lama mine, along the Chile-Argentina border, has contributed to a fall in the company’s stock price and increased pressure for returns at a handful of other mines, including Pueblo Viejo, one of Barrick’s five core projects, company officials told Reuters.

APPLICATION PENDING…AND PENDING

While the successful challenge to the terms of the largest single foreign investment in the country’s history has cast a pall over investment in the sector generally, as has the 25 percent drop in gold prices this year, there remains a third source of uncertainty: bureaucratic delays.

In July, the Dominican congress passed a law to create a new Ministry of Energy and Mining, intended to help develop the industry. But no minister has yet been named, and questions swirl over the power of the new entity to regulate the energy sector.

The existing Mining Management Office has been left relatively powerless, leaving hundreds of applications for new explorations pending.

Precipitate Gold Corp launched a Dominican operation in August 2012. The company, also Canadian, expected an 8-to-12-month approval period to explore some 26,000 acres in the Central Cordillera, the mountainous area that holds the most promise for future mining projects. More than a year and a half has passed.

Precipitate’s request is one of 284 applications pending at the Dominican Mining Office, according to data obtained by Reuters, although the office said no companies have withdrawn their requests.

Meanwhile, in an effort to improve public perception of mining, the government has launched a public awareness campaign along with the industry that highlights the benefits of mining, like jobs in economically depressed regions.

“They want to move public perception of the sector,” said Andrew Cheatle, chief executive of UniGold, another Canadian company with projects on hold in the country. “It’s an approach that will play out in years, not months,” he said.

A SPRING SURGE?

Notwithstanding the malaise afflicting the industry, official enthusiasm over the country’s mining future remains undiminished.

“The state is completely and totally in support of the expansion of mining in the Dominican Republic,” said Alexander Medina, director general of the soon-to-be phased-out Mining Management Office.

The mining office estimates that the country sits atop $60 billion in mineral and metal reserves, including as much as 40 million ounces of gold. Pueblo Viejo alone is estimated to hold 25.3 million ounces of gold, as well as substantial reserves of silver, copper and zinc.

Reserves in other Latin American countries, including Chile and Peru, dwarf the Dominican deposits, but here the mining potential has only just begin to be exploited. “We’re at the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential for the country,” said Medina.

The delay in approving applications is purely bureaucratic, he insisted, a consequence of pulling together the new ministry. He said it would likely be established in January.

“I think that after the first three or four months, these applications will start to be approved.”

Jeffrey R. Wilson, president and chief executive of Precipitate, says his company wants to hang on. “I don’t see the delay forcing us to pull out of the country. But certainly investor fatigue comes in after a while.”

The wait has already forced Precipitate to look to Mexico, he said, where it is drilling for gold and silver near the Arizona border.

(Reporting by Ezra Fieser; Editing by David Adams, Douglas Royalty and Prudence Crowther)

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