Assemblies kill bill in Patagonia, ArgentinaPublished by MAC on 2021-03-16
Source: Bnamericas, BBC, Bloomberg
Parliamentary failed to vote the opening of a mining zone.
An isolated incident that occurred over the weekend in the Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42 in Patagonia, severely affected by forest fires (already controlled), rebounded in the international press as misrepresentation of the social movement that have kepted multinational mining corporations off Chubut and Río Negro provinces for almost two decades.
Meanwhile, a government proposed bill that would allow Pan American Silver to develop the Navidad project and Patagonia Gold to reopen the Angela mine in Chubut drifts nowhere, simply because people do not want it.
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Argentine President Targeted by Mob Fighting to Keep Out Mining
March 15, 2021
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez had to dodge protesters to get onto a minibus that was then pelted with stones as environmentalists battle a move to give mining the green light in Chubut.
Fernandez was in the Patagonian province to check on efforts to extinguish forest fires. He was caught off guard as protesters seized the opportunity to take their objection to precious-metal mining to the very top of government.
The president was mobbed by protesters but managed to find his way onto the bus, which then had a window smashed by one of the projectiles as it zoomed off. At least six people have been arrested, newspaper La Nacion reported.
Argentina has a strong culture of protesting and Fernandez’s predecessor, Maucrio Macri, also had rocks thrown at his car when he was on vacation in 2016.
The latest twist in a yearslong conflict shines a light on a growing challenge for mining companies around the world as environmental, social and governance expectations rise among investors, regulators and the general public.
In Peru, community opposition has held back major copper projects. In Mexico, McEwen Mining Inc. has halted work at its El Gallo gold project because of community blockades.
Argentina has huge untapped deposits of lithium, copper, gold and silver. One of the barriers to development is anti-mining sentiment stoked by environmental blemishes such as three cyanide incidents in two years at a Barrick Gold Corp. mine in San Juan province.
With support from a federal government desperate to kick-start the economy, provinces have been working to approve open-pit mining and the use of certain chemicals. In Chubut, Canada’s Pan American Silver Corp. is waiting on lawmakers to allow it to proceed with a $1 billion open pit.
While mining companies are recalibrating their approach to communities and the environment, the pace is too slow for some observers.
In Argentina, it’s the provinces that own mineral resources. Protests have led oil-producing Chubut to delay a parliamentary vote twice this year that would allow mining in two areas.
In Mendoza, better known for its Malbec wines, provincial lawmakers actually passed a law in December 2019 to unlock copper mining, but the governor was forced to suspend it following social unrest.
Fernandez flew into the eye of the storm on the weekend. The heart of Argentina’s anti-mining lobby is Esquel, a tourist town at the feet of the Andes where residents and those of nearby communities, including the one visited by Fernandez, voted against mining in a 2003 referendum. (Chubut’s current efforts to push through mining legislation don’t apply to its Andean region.)
The gold project that originally vexed Esquel is now owned by Yamana Gold Inc., which took steps last year to sell a stake to local businessman Eduardo Elsztain and a partner.
Argentina's President Alberto Fernández targeted in vehicle by protesters
March 15, 2021
Dozens of protesters have attacked a minibus carrying Argentina's President, Alberto Fernández, in the country's Patagonia region.
Crowds gathered around Mr Fernández and threw stones and punched his vehicle outside a community centre in the southern province of Chubut.
The president was visiting an area devastated by forest fires, which have killed one person and injured others.
But the protest was against plans to resume open-pit mining in Chubut.
The demonstrators were angry at government proposals to allow large-scale projects to begin again in the region, which is rich in gold, silver and uranium, Clarín newspaper reported.
Footage of the attack shows people gathered at the entrance of the community centre as Mr Fernández is led out towards his vehicle.
The crowd then follows the president and starts punching and kicking the minibus, hitting the windows with stones and attempting to prevent it from moving.
When the vehicle eventually passes through the crowd to leave, a number of windows appear to have been broken.
President Fernández later sought to downplay the violence, saying he believed it was the work of a small number of people who hardly had any support in Chubut or across Argentina.
Forest fires have blazed through Argentina's Patagonia region in recent days, forcing people to evacuate the area and destroying at least 200 homes.
Some towns have suffered power outages and others have been left without a water supply.
The cause of the fires has yet to be established, but Argentina's interior ministry has said it believes many were started intentionally.
Chubut lawmakers again postpone vote on partial lifting of mining ban
March 4, 2021
The lower house of Argentina's Chubut province once again decided to postpone a vote on a bill that would allow Canada’s Pan American Silver to develop its Navidad project, in which it plans to invest close to US$1bn.
The vote was due to take place Thursday but was pushed back after protests, including outside the homes of lawmakers.
The bill sent by governor Mariano Arcioni would allow mining in the departments of Gastre and Telsen, in the north-central area of the southern province.
On Wednesday, the legislature’s natural resources committee approved the bill by six votes to two, despite the fact that its members had not received the report from the National University of Patagonia on the impact of the future mine.
Open pit mining and the use of cyanide for mineral processing have been prohibited in Chubut since 2003.
The governor had tried but failed on two previous opportunities to approve the bill, with final votes also being postponed in December and February amid protests in the main towns of the province.
The latest attempt stipulates that mining companies must hire up to 80% of the workforce in the province, with 20% being women, increased controls on water regulation and that 2% royalties be allocated to sector unions to carry out infrastructure works for the social welfare and health of their members.
If the bill is ever approved, Pan American Silver will begin the final stage of the feasibility process for Navidad, its detailed engineering, and will carry out the environmental impact study, a former official of the federal mining ministry said previously.
The Vancouver-based company would have to invest some US$20-30mn in those processes, which will take a few months to complete, the former official said.
In preliminary studies, Pan American Silver estimated that it will have to spend US$760mn on construction of the project, plus US$161mn for maintenance over the mine's 14-year life. Output is put at around 20Moz/y for the first five years.
Navidad has 67.8Moz of measured resources and 564Moz in the indicated category, according to the company.
If the law is approved, other companies may be encouraged to restart gold and silver exploration projects in Chubut that were halted with the mining ban, the former official said.
The province has competitive advantages compared to other parts of Argentina, such as the ability to work every day of the year, something that is difficult at mines at more than 4,000m above sea level.
Being mainly on a plain, including where Navidad is located, Chubut also offers easier logistics than mountainous regions.