Lawmakers in Argentine province uphold mining ban
1st Jun 2007
BUENOS AIRES, May 31 (Reuters) - Mining industry leaders vowed on Thursday to fight lawmakers' decision to uphold a ban on open-pit mining in an Andean province famous for its grape vines and olive groves. Senators in Mendoza voted this week to reinstate anti-mining legislation that had been vetoed by the provincial governor in December on the grounds it was unconstitutional.
The legislation halts open-pit metals mining and the granting of exploration permits due to fears about its impact on the environment. Anti-mining activists say the provincial government has failed to impose environmental safeguards.
Representatives of the region's fledgling mining industry say the senate's decision puts the sector's future development at risk. "We're prepared to fight to the last," Roberto Zenobi, head of the province's mining chamber, told Reuters, adding that the governor's veto could still be backed by the province's house of deputies. That would stop the legislation taking effect.
"We're determined to stop the legislature's activity, while at the same time stressing that we're also not in agreement with the government," Zenobi said.
He said provincial officials have acted too slowly to develop an environmental plan to address local concerns. Mining projects in Mendoza include the Don Sixto gold site, where drilling is being done by Canada's Exeter Resource Corp., and the San Jorge gold and copper property, owned by Vancouver-based Global Copper Corp. and optioned to Coro Mining Corp.
Mendoza is synonymous with Malbec vines grown in the plains below the snow-capped Andes, but rising metal prices have generated increased interest in its mining potential and, in turn, have fueled anti-mining protests.
Argentina is not known as a mining country. But investment in the sector has boomed in recent years, driven by higher global prices and lower costs since the peso was devalued sharply against the dollar during a 2001-2002 economic crisis.