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In this Jan. 29, 2014 photo, a drill finishes up the blast pattern at Barrick Gold Corp.'s Cortez Hills, Nev., open pit site.

Ross Andreson/The Canadian Press

Barrick Gold Corp., the world's biggest producer of the metal, called off plans to halt operations at its Lumwana copper mine after Zambia's government softened a royalty-based tax system, an official said.

"It's going to continue operating normally and all the jobs are safe and protected," Amos Malupenga, permanent secretary for North Western province, where the mine is located, said in remarks broadcast on state-owned ZNBC radio. "Lumwana has rescinded its decision to put the company on care and maintenance," he said, citing a phone call he had with Bill MacNevin, the operation's general manager.

Andy Lloyd, a spokesman for Toronto-based Barrick, didn't immediately respond to a voice message or an e-mail seeking comment outside of normal working hours.

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Barrick said in December it would halt operations at Lumwana after lawmakers approved a new mine-tax system that more than tripled royalties for the operation to 20 per cent, putting 4,000 jobs at risk. The government said this week it will cut the levy to 9 per cent and reintroduce a 30 per cent profit tax in a bid to safeguard jobs.

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