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Published by MAC on 2005-06-23

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Río Negro legislature set to ban cyanide, mercury - Argentina

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Harvey Beltrán,

There is total agreement in thePublic meeting Jacobacci at legislative chamber of southern Argentina's Río Negro province on approving a measure to ban the development of mining projects that use substances such as cyanide and mercury.

"The decision to vote in favor of the bill will be unanimous, given that the government bloc has the majority of votes while the opposition - who number just six - already expressed their rejection of cyanide or mercury in mining projects," Alberto Ricaldoni, a press official for Río Negro's legislature, told BNamericas.

The measure, which will be discussed and voted on in the chamber on June 30, "has already been signed by the governor [Miguel Saiz] and ratified by all the [province's] ministers so it will need just one reading [debate and vote] in the provincial legislature," Ricaldoni said.

The Río Negro legislature has only one chamber, rather than a lower and upper house, and bills are normally subject to two rounds of voting. However, in this particular case the bill will be discussed only once as the ministers have already approved it.

Once voting is completed the executive will have 48 hours to promulgate the measure. "It's in their interests to sign it as quickly as possible as they backed it," Ricaldoni said.

Once promulgated the law would oblige companies that hold mineral concessions in the province to adapt their development processes to the new legislation.

When governor Saiz presented the bill he said the initiative "results from my analysis related to recent phenomena in our province regarding increasing permit requests for sampling, exploration and development of metallic mineral deposits."

Saiz recently announced his rejection of the environmental impact study (EIS) for Canadian junior Aquiline Resources' (TSX-V: AQI) Calcatreu gold project in Río Negro on the grounds that cyanide would be used in the extraction process.

Aquiline has been planning to invest US$43.5mn at Calcatreu to produce 97,000oz/y gold and 580,000oz/y silver at average cash costs of US$191/oz over the first four of the seven-year mine life, according to the company.

In an interview with BNamericas earlier this month, Aquiline VP of exploration Martin Walter said the governor's rejection of the project was due to "electioneering."

Congressional and provincial elections are to be held in Argentina this October, although Saiz himself is due to serve until December 2007 and only two national and no provincial deputies are up for reelection in Río Negro this year.

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