Argentina mining exports to near $4.5bn in 2023 amid lithium boom

Caucharí-Olaroz lithium mine, one of the two producing assets in Argentina. (Image courtesy of Lithium Americas Corp.)

Argentina’s mining exports will reach around $4.5 billion in 2023, up from the 2022 total amid strong prices and the launch of a new lithium mine, the president of the sector’s main business chamber told Reuters late Thursday.

Roberto Cacciola, who has just taken over as president of the Argentine Chamber of Mining Entrepreneurs (CAEM), said in an interview “the final number of exports will be closer to $4.4 or $4.5 billion in 2023.”

The country’s mining exports totaled $3.8 billion in 2022, according to official data.

Cacciola said the increase was largely due to the launch of the country’s third lithium project, located in the northern province of Jujuy and co-owned by China’s Gangfeng and the Canadian Lithium Americas.

Production of lithium is set for a boost in coming years.

Two other lithium projects are set to expand production, while six others are under construction.

“We estimate (lithium investment in 2024) could be above $1 billion,” said Cacciola.

Nonetheless, exports of gold and silver – the country’s two main metals at present – are set to fall to about $3 billion next year from an expected $3.2 billion in 2023, Cacciola added, dampened by a lack of investment into them.

He told Reuters it was “inevitable” that lithium exports will outpace the two metals in due course.

Argentina, which faces serious economic issues with annual inflation at over 120%, a fiscal deficit and a huge debt with the International Monetary Fund, will hold presidential elections in October.

Cacciola said none of the leading candidates had yet shared “concrete proposals” about tapping into Argentina’s mining potential, though all see it as a key growth vehicle.

He warned that while Argentina has the advantage of being a relatively new mining powerhouse, it could be hampered by a lack of legal and fiscal security.

Aside from lithium, Argentina also has ambitions to restart copper production, which ceased in 2018. Multiple planned project could generate 793,000 metric tons of the red metal by the end of the decade, according to government estimates.

(By Lucila Sigal and Isabel Woodford; Editing by Brendan O’Boyle)


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