Politician supporting Pan American Silver’s Argentina project in hot water over anti-mining comments

Mariano Arcioni, governor of Argentina’s Chubut province. (Image from Arcioni’s Twitter profile).

The governor of Argentina’s southern Chubut province, Mariano Arcioni, is being criticized on social media after an environmentalist lawyer resurfaced a 2017 video where Arcioni states that mining should not be allowed in the region due to its polluting effects on the natural environment. 

In the broadcast interview, the governor also said that the fact that Chubut hosts two Unesco World Heritage sites -the Valdés Península and the Los Alerces National Park – is a consequence of taking care of the environment and not allowing mining to pollute the air and waterways. 

But that was three years ago. Now, Arcioni seems to be pushing for Pan American Silver’s Navidad project, one of the world’s largest undeveloped silver deposits, located in the north-central part of the province between the towns of Gastre and Gan Gan.

According to local media, during the November presentation of the Argentinian Strategic Mining Plan, the governor said that his office is working to move forward with the zoning application for Navidad. Project development has been stalled for over a decade because provincial law XVII-N°68 (previously Law 5001) prohibits open-pit mining and the use of cyanide in mineral processing in the entire province.

Mariano Arcioni is quoted as saying that Chubut needs to create new productive schemes that take advantage of the wealth of mineral resources that the region hosts. In his view, this is how the province can contribute to the Argentinian republic and generate progress in remote areas. 

Arcioni’s interest in mining development started showing last year when, as a recently elected governor, he presented a new Ministerial Law that allowed for the former Ministry of Hydrocarbons to become the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Mining. 

But these postures haven’t sat well with some activists and community members, who not only brought back the 2017 video but also reminded Arcioni that during his campaign to become a member of parliament three years ago, he appeared on a TV spot saying that he wouldn’t allow mining in the province. 

Previous to this debate, the politician said on Twitter that technology now allows for efficient ways to develop “a different type of mining” and that he wouldn’t allow mining companies to touch the Chubut River or the province’s mountain range.

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