A team of experts from the United Nations (UN) last Tuesday began evaluating a proposed nickel mine expansion in the Dominican Republic that has been halted by a court over environmental concerns.
The team from the UN Development Program will analyse the project and the government environmental reports of the potential environmental, social and economic effects of the Loma Miranda project.
The analysis is expected to take up to six months and the results will be made public.
"We are not going to recommend whether to go forward with the project or not; that's the government's decision," said Roberto Galvez, a team representative. "We are going to make an objective study, taking into consideration all the elements."
Xstrata Nickel, based in Toronto, Canada, has applied for permits to begin mining in 2016 on 1,380 hectares (3,400 acres) near Bonao, about 100 kilometres) north of Santo Domingo in the centre of the country.
The project would extend the life of the company's nearby Falcondo mine and processing facility, which produces ferro-nickel used to manufacture stainless steel.
The company, a division of Anglo-Swiss mining company Xstrata Plc, has said it believes it can extract 20 million tons of mineral over the next 25 years at Loma Miranda.
Dom Rep's Academy of Sciences said the project could contaminate the main water source to the country's rice growing region as well as a network of rivers and the open pit mine would destroy large amounts of natural habitat.
In September, a judge sided with opponents and ordered Xstrata to halt work on the project until further studies were conducted.