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Argentina: Chubut’s mining scene after Das Neves (from IKN442)

This is a short section from yesterday’s edition of The IKN Weekly. The subject; whether the Chubut province of Argentina, home to Pan American Silver’s (PAAS) Navidad project among others, is about to unfreeze its mining potential now that anti-mining governor Mario Das Neves has passed away.

The death of Mario Das Neves

Though it’s somewhat crass to start
by acknowledging the death of the Chubut Governor Mario Das Neves with a quick
nod and a line of script, but then move straight into what it might mean for
the mining industry in the Chubut province as well as wider Argentina, you will forgive me for
the necessary evil.

Mario Das Neves was one of the
loudest anti-mining voices in the country and nothing less than a scourge for
the mining companies looking to set up business in the Chubut province, such as
Pan American Silver (PAAS) at the world-class silver/lead/zinc Navidad project,
Yamana (AUY) at the Esquel gold project in the Western Andean foothills of
Chubut or any one of several juniors with uranium assets there. His death would
therefore seem at first sight to be a positive check mark for the mining camp,
but it’s unlikely to be as simple or easy as that because of who the new
governor of Chubut is. The previous
vice-Governor, one Mariano Arcioni, has already been sworn in and is currently
in the process of deciding on his new cabinet of regional ministers. They will
be officially decided in his first cabinet meeting tomorrow Monday and though
we already know three of the ex-Das Neves cabinet have had their resignations
accepted, we won’t know the full make up until then.

However, we do know that in
previous declarations at least, Mariano Arcioni takes a very similar line to
that of his now deceased boss on mining. For example, earlier this year when
the National Minister for Energy and Mining, Juan José Aranguren, was pushing
Chubut to permit and develop Navidad (Macri and Ross Beaty see ey to eye on
most things) the then Vice-Governor Arcioni was quick to respond to media
channels (21) with, “We are not going to let anyone force any project upon us
(the Chubut people) that goes against our provincial sovereignty”. And once
again in this simple statement, be it from the mouth of the governor or
whoever, we see the power of the provincial politics to green or red light any
plan or initiative promoted by the national government on a nationwide scale
(mining or any other). Another statement on mining made by the new Governor of
Chubut came mid-2016 (22) and was again centred on Macri’s desire to get
Navidad going (we’ve already noted how much of the national project asset book
Navidad represents, it’s too big to ignore for the country government).
time Arcioni said, “At this time open pit mining using cyanide is prohibited
(in Chubut). The law is that and until certain
safety measures regarding water and controls are guaranteed, it’s an issue
that’s far in the future to debate. Despite the President’s desire, today in Chubut it’s a long way off”.

We need to
watch carefully this week for any signs that the new governor might take a
different line to the mining question now in power (was he simply toeing the
Das Neves line before?) and that starts with the unveiling of his picks for Chubut regional ministers tomorrow Monday. However, if he
takes the same line as before, we still shouldn’t hold our breath about Chubut
joining the more pro-mining provinces of Argentina.

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