Argentina's Chubut considering mining referendum

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The government of Argentina's Chubut province is considering holding a referendum to decide whether to lift the heavy restrictions on mining there.

Government officials, including governor Mario Das Neves, met with local industry representatives to discuss the need to diversify Chubut's production matrix, as current activities like hydrocarbons production, livestock farming and fishing are struggling, local paper El Patagónico quoted the province's cabinet chief, Victor Cisterna, as saying.

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While the provincial government has opted to focus on tourism and renewable energy to help spur the local economy, it leaves mining as an option and something that the people of Chubut will have to decide on, Cisterna said.

Chubut is one of Argentina's most anti-mining provinces, after it prohibited open pit mining back in the early 2000s. As such, key projects like Pan American Silver's Navidad silver-gold mine have been stalled.

The federal government of President Mauricio Macri has been making efforts to attract new investment in the country, including in the mining sector. Last month Pan American chairman Ross Beaty said his firm had earmarked investment of US$1bn for Navidad, which is contingent on Chubut lifting the restriction.

As for the timing of the plebiscite, it would likely be held in 2017, in parallel with next year's legislative elections.