Latin Exploration 2010, the second International Conference on Exploration in Latin America, held on October 28th and 29th at Panamericano Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, ended successfully thanks to the quality of the lectures, the level of the speakers, and the topics of the debate. At the closing panel, attendants participated in the analysis and discussion of the new Law to Protect Glaciers.

On Friday afternoon, the conference program continued with Ricardo Martínez, Manager of Argentina Minera (Aminsa), who acknowledged that the raw materials are the ones boosting the economy nowadays, governed by an international capital in search of countries where investment possibilities are favorable, and further encouraged by population growth which pushes mining production ahead, particularly to supply markets such as the Chinese and Indian markets. He also mentioned another extremely important aspect –the urbanization process taking place around the world, where two thirds of the world’s population comes from emerging countries that demand new minerals, new metals, and new services which are provided by the mining industry.

Martínez added that an ounce of gold is equivalent to 16 oil barrels and that, in this decade, over 12,725 million dollars have been received in investments. Forty percent of the projects are in copper and mainly supply the Chinese and Indian markets. He also recalled an important case of mergers which took place at the end of the 1990s when a company buying another one would also buy the involved reserves, and how that tendency evolved to become what it is today, where main companies are again investing in exploration.

Martínez warned that the costs of exploration per ounce will rise daily with the additional problem that it will represent a technological challenge since laws will become harsher every day. He highlighted that, in 1993, Argentina was moving forward with optimism and prosperity, when ore deposits such as Cerro Negro were re-evaluated, where expectations are set by the extraordinary prices agreed upon to buy the ounce in the field reaching prices of 1,129 dollars, when the average value is 315 dollars.

At the closing panel, attendants participated in the analysis and discussion of the new Law to Protect Glaciers. At the beginning of the debate, Carlos Saravia Frías, partner in Saravia Frías Mazzinghi Lawyers, started his lecture saying that, “the mining activity doesn’t need any law to protect glaciers since it’s implicit in the activity the protection of the environment; anyway, it’s never bad that there exists a law to protect them. Anyhow, the problem arises when discussing the definition of periglacial area. The law defines the periglacial area in the high mountain as the area with frozen grounds that acts as regulator of water resources and, in the medium and low mountain, as the area that functions as regulator of the water resources, with ice-saturated grounds. That is not a consistent definition, what causes a series of difficulties. On the other hand, section 6 clearly and specifically bans mining and oil activity in the glaciers and periglacial areas.”

Saravia Frías pointed out the great controversy caused by the elimination of section 17 of the Glacier Protection Law which stipulated that all mining activities should be halted until an inventory of glaciers was made. The bill including such amendment should return to the Chamber of Deputies for approval and fulfillment of usual procedure, a clear flaw in parliamentary procedure.

Another controversy arises from the confrontation that exists between the Nation with the primary law of the provinces that form the Argentine Republic and the provincial right to regulate its natural resources. In this respect, it’s important to define what is to protect a legally protected right and how to protect it.

The law appears to be against the Constitution, according to Carlos Saravia Frías, it is unfair and discriminatory because it infringes the right and principle of equality before the law, particularly the right to work and to invest. There are two possible solutions: to maximize it through legal actions to declare it null and void on account of being unconstitutional and to mediate in the regulations to narrow down the definition of the term periglacial. Any of these different solutions will have to be evaluated in accordance with the social and political interests of the actions to be carried out. Therefore, Saravia Frías recommends acting with one accord and in a coordinated way to achieve the common and superior good for the Argentine Republic.

Later, Julio Ríos Gómez, president of GEMERA, pointed out that, “the aim was to protect water reserves and, from that point of view, a fallacy was taken as a starting point because it was said that in Argentina the 70% of freshwater in streams and rivers comes from glaciers, and there’s nothing more fallacious than that, and it arises from a political bias. In fact, 90% of the water used in the heaviest populated areas in Argentina comes from underground basins and from the north of the country, and not from glacial origin. Based on this fallacious reasoning, the Glacier Protection Law is passed in 2008. Then, the bill is submitted to reconsideration, known as Bonasso, which had and has a series of legal and technical controversies. No country renounces or renounced voluntarily to the rational exploitation of its natural resources, no one has done it before, why would we do it now?”

Likewise, from Ríos Gómez’s lecture it can be concluded that the difficulties associated with the implementation of this law arise from the lack of an inventory of glaciers in the Argentine Republic, inventory that would take, according to the authorities, from six to seven years. In general, the south of Argentina would be in a more delicate position for mining development, while in other areas, particularly the central plateau, companies should add to their costs the hydrous and hydrological studies which enable them to act in observance of the current regulations. Lastly, companies must adopt, in accordance with the rule of law, the appropriate regulations and legal actions to look for a definition and extend the possibility of mining work.

It is important to highlight that after Latin Exploration 2010, federal judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez decided not to apply the Law of Minimum Budgets for the Protection of Glaciers in the province of San Juan. The suspension was effective a day after San Juan’s mining chambers and unions filed an action for the protection of a constitutional right questioning the constitutionality of the norm. This sets a precedent for other provinces and makes it clear that debate will continue.

During Latin Exploration 2010 convention, on Thursday, October 28th, a reception was held at the Embassy of Canada where conference attendants and embassy’s authorities were present. Also, on Friday 29th, at midday, an exclusive event for members of Argentina Mining Membership took place at The Green Club at Panamericano Hotel where members and special guests attended a wine tasting from Familia Zuccardi winery and enjoyed sessions of indoor golf.

Argentina Mining thanks all the companies and organizations which have contributed to make this conference possible: Silver Standard Resources; Pan American Silver; Wardrop; Minera Andes; Votorantim Metais; Austral Minerals; Ecominera; Embassy of Canada; and GEMERA

About Argentina Mining

Argentina Mining is an Events and Marketing firm focused on the Argentinean mining market. Its objectives are gathering the mining community in Argentina and providing a place to promote the activity in the world, developing business opportunities for its members. The company organizes the premium international event of the Argentinean mining sector, the Argentina Mining Convention, which takes place biennially in Argentina since 1996, and the Latin Exploration Conference, among others. Additionally, it provides advisory services in public relations and marketing and develops supplementary products. For further information, please visit www.argentinamining.com


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