Move over Chile, Macri’s Argentina wants the mining limelight

Veladero, one of the largest gold mines in Argentina. (Image: Antonio Gritta | Wikimedia Commons)

Over decades, Chile forged a mining industry that’s the envy of the Americas. Now, there’s a new kid in town: neighboring Argentina.

Under President Mauricio Macri, opportunities for miners are improving. Macri took office two years ago vowing to undo protectionist policies and lure investors.

Those moves are reflected by tweaks he’s said to be planning to a law protecting Argentina’s Andean glaciers. The changes could help unfurl $18 billion of stalled projects, newspaper La Nacion reported on Wednesday. Chile, meanwhile, has been debating legislation to fortify its environmental laws.

Then there’s Pascua-Lama, Barrick Gold Corp.’s gold and silver project straddling the countries’ northern border. While it remains shuttered in Chile after legal and environmental setbacks, in Macri’s Argentina it’s moving forward as the company prepares to start exploratory drilling this month with new partner Shandong Gold Mining Co.

Lastly, there’s the lithium Elon Musk needs to motor his electric-car revolution, not to mention the batteries to store solar and wind energy.

Argentina is doing everything it can to spur lithium brine operations on high-altitude salt flats, with companies like Orocobre Ltd. and Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile SA ramping up operations. In Chile, where lithium is considered “strategic” and producers need authorization from the Nuclear Energy Commission, SQM is locked in a contractual battle with authorities for its main license to mine the soft metal.

(Story by Jonathan Gilbert).