MAC: Mines and Communities

Argentina minister woos Canadian mining sector

Published by MAC on 2004-03-16

Argentina minister woos Canadian mining sector

Planet Ark (Reuters), story by Gilbert Le Gras

March 16, 2004

Ottowa - Argentine officials wrapped up a cross-Canada tour on Thursday used to showcase a tax break for mineral exploration and attract investment to the South American country.

"Two weeks ago we passed a decree to remit our (21 percent) value added tax to mineral exploration firms and this is a significant point we wanted miners to be aware of", Argentine Mining Secretary Jorge Mayoral told Reuters on the sidelines of a government conference on mining investment opportunities.

Mayoral, the governors of Catamarca and San Juan and officials from other northwestern Argentine provinces met junior mining firms in Vancouver last Friday before attending a major mining industry conference in Toronto this week.

Canada is home to one of the world's major mining sectors, with companies such as Inco Ltd. and Barrick Gold Corp. having operations around the world.

"We had many meetings with potential investors who saw that despite our worst economic crisis the rules of the game did not change in the mining sector, but that we are improving them," Mayoral said.

After ratifying the Pascua-Lama exploitation treaty with Chile almost four years ago, Argentina is now discussing a similar agreement with Bolivia with a view to facilitating mining operations that may straddle the border, he added.

Officials are also discussing public-private partnerships with foreign companies to upgrade roads, rail lines and ports to speed transport, he said, emphasizing the General Belgrano rail line linking Buenos Aires to the mineral-rich northwest.

Compared with Canada, Argentina has many undeveloped mineral deposits and IMA Exploration Inc. became a hot topic on the Vancouver junior mining scene last year when it announced a high-grade silver discovery in Chubut province.

"We believe that the exploration potential for the Navidad property is exceptional," said Don Poirier of First Associates in a note to clients this month.

Others in the Canadian industry, referring to environmental problems faced by Meridian Gold Inc. in Chubut, are wary of potential disputes with local communities.

Residents near Meridian's Esquel project voted 80 percent against a mine development last year for fear of damage to their water sources. That led the company's chief executive, Brian Kennedy, to issue a public apology for not disclosing enough information or addressing the community's concerns.

"That was a particular case where both sides bore responsibility for what happened," Mayoral said, adding he was negotiating a memorandum of understanding with Canada's Natural Resources Department to share expertise on environmental issues in the mining sector.

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