With record attendance and strong statements about the future of mining, San Juan Mining Expo 2024 concluded with great success

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The tenth edition of the international exhibition "San Juan Mining Expo," organized by Panorama Minero since 2006, was the site of a historic meeting in the mining industry not only due to the large turnout, surpassing the mark of 23,700 participants over the three days, but also because of the announcements made at the fair that will serve as a catalyst for the activity's takeoff in the coming years. The event was attended by seven governors, national ministries in both mining and production, delegations from 17 strategically aligned countries in the sector, and more than 30 mining companies and 300 companies linked to the activity. The highlight was the signing of the agreement by the Interprovincial Copper Task Force, marking a roadmap for the copper development of provinces with potential in the field.

By Panorama Minero

Mining is experiencing a moment of high prominence in the country and the world. The challenges of energy transition and a growing demand for minerals in which Argentina holds great wealth are, from an international perspective, some of the major attractions the region offers. Internally, the need to diversify the economy and ensure access to foreign exchange and direct foreign investment renews interest in the industry, which could become one of the major drivers of economic and productive activity in the national territory during this and the coming decades.

In this context, San Juan Mining Expo 2024 was further evidence of the expectations surrounding the activity. With an attendance of 14,000, 12,000, and 10,000 people respectively over the three days of activity, the event achieved resounding success by bringing together communities and society with the main companies and institutions related to mining development. Both suppliers from various sectors and mining companies with interests in the country, in exploration, development, and production stages, filled the Cepas Sanjuaninas premises to share innovations and products, discuss the next steps of major projects, and analyze how this new identity as a mining country will be shaped. The mission is to increase export and production levels, which currently stand at figures nearly 20 times lower than those of neighboring Chile and more than 10 times lower than those of Peru, the main regional competitors with similar resources.

In this context, the event allowed for a deep understanding of the interest in having more projects underway and providing guarantees to investors that it is possible to develop mining under clear rules and understanding that it is a business that requires long development periods. A long-term vision that cannot be subject to significant political changes or modifications in the rules shaping the activity if the ultimate goal is to ensure predictability and the influx of capital. To highlight the mining operations in the country, rich in geology but still sluggish from a more tangible reality, it will be essential to maintain social license and improve conditions for community participation, not without first ensuring a continued mining policy over time, improvements regarding macroeconomics, human resource development, and infrastructure.

What was discussed in the Opening Ceremony

In Hall A of the venue, located in the provincial town of Rivadavia, the opening ceremony of San Juan Mining Expo 2024 took place, recognized as the most federal exhibition of Argentine mining and one of the most prestigious in the region. The inauguration, attended by more than 800 people who filled the hall, was notable for the participation of prominent figures from the political, business, and union sectors of the mining industry.

The ceremony took place in one of the large tents set up around the main pavilion. The event began with the national anthem, performed by the local police band, and Alejandro Colombo, editorial director, delivered the welcome address, thanking everyone for their efforts to gather in San Juan and highlighting "how much mining is advancing in Argentina, an industry that is increasingly being talked about every day."

María Eugenia Sampalione, president of Women in Mining Argentina, emphasized the importance of recognizing the origins of those involved in the industry and promoting inclusive and sustainable development of mining in Argentina, especially at a time of growth for the sector where society will increasingly demand more from the industry. The businesswoman, who also leads the Newmont team in Argentina, highlighted WIM's role in promoting policies and actions that foster equity and inclusion of women in the mining sector, serving as a catalyst organization for all those concerns surrounding the sector about how to mine in the country in the most sustainable and inclusive way possible.

Romina Sassarini, president of the Federal Mining Council and Secretary of Energy and Mining of Salta, emphasized the importance of understanding mining from a federal perspective, with synergies between different governments and a joint work line that facilitates the development of operations. She highlighted the collaboration between provinces to share knowledge and address common challenges in all regions, with the goal of developing the mining industry in the territory and recovering lost time in favor of global trends where Argentina has much to gain.

Ricardo Martínez, president of the San Juan Mining Chamber and of the 10th San Juan Mining Expo, called on senators to approve the Large Investment Incentive Regime (RIGI) and improve the competitiveness of the industry. He was the first on the panel to emphasize the importance of a long-term legal and tax framework to attract investments in the sector and expressed hope that mining initiatives will become realities that benefit the country: "The era of copper in Argentina is a fact. The continuity of gold and silver projects is also a reality that we have to work on. The same goes for the growth of the lithium market and many other mining potentials that we have throughout the country. The call is to look to the future with perseverance and under a long-term legal and tax scheme that allows for the arrival of investments. I believe it is possible, and I hope that our representatives will turn these expressions into operational mines in a short time. Miners assure you that if that happens, from the heart, this country will change forever."

Representing the workers, Marcelo Mena, general secretary of ASIJEMIN, and Héctor Laplace, general secretary of AOMA, Argentina's main mining union, expressed contrasting views when analyzing the present and future of the country in the field. Mena highlighted the growth of the activity as a factor of progress and advocated for collaboration between workers, employers, and both national and provincial governments. Laplace, on the other hand, expressed concerns about the economic and labor situation of the sector, dismissed the need for the RIGI, and advocated for respect for the Mining Investments Law. "With the mining investments law, it's enough and more than enough, we have to get used to respecting the law. The RIGI can harm small producers, SMEs, and local suppliers," Laplace concluded.

In contrast, Franco Mignacco, vice president of the Argentine Chamber of Mining Companies (CAEM), emphasized the importance of mining projects for national companies: "When a project is in the construction stage, it generates more than 700 suppliers, of which only 10% are foreign; the rest are national SMEs. The same happens in the operational stage, with more than 560 companies working day by day, and only 50 are foreign," he highlighted.

Mignacco also addressed the crisis of confidence facing the country and pointed out that the Large Investment Incentive Regime (RIGI) is crucial to rebuild lost credibility. "Argentina has violated the Mining Investments Law on several occasions, which has halted promising projects in the context of electromobility and energy transition due to the lack of clear rules. We are one of the countries with the highest total tax burden, which is why we believe that the RIGI will drive much more development. We have the resources, we have conducted exploration and planning, and we need to offer these macroeconomic certainties," he concluded.

Regarding the Mining Investments Law, the Secretary of Mining of the Nation, Luis Lucero, also picked up Laplace's point and highlighted that Law No. 24,196, enacted in 1993, was an "absolute success," allowing Argentina to increase its exports from US$70 million in 1994 to US$5 billion by 2012. He explained that this tool generated an explosion of production and wealth, and that the RIGI seeks to reproduce and enhance that phenomenon. According to Lucero, the regime is an improved version of the mining investments law, designed to avoid erroneous judicial interpretations and offer a more robust framework to attract investments.

In that vein, Lucero emphasized that both he and President Javier Milei see the RIGI as a useful tool for large international investors. He pointed out that the regime offers significant fiscal, customs, and exchange incentives, with investments ranging from US$200 to US$900 million to access benefits, and strategic exports starting from US$1,000 million. Lucero argued that the key discussion is whether Argentinians will seize this opportunity to develop their vast deposits and generate employment and wealth, or if, on the contrary, they will turn their backs again. "We will remove the sterile that covers our huge deposits to generate work, salaries, value, and wealth, including a capital market that allows Argentinians to invest in ourselves, in our talent, and our capacity," he expanded, affirming that "we must warn that there is always a directly proportional relationship between what we expect from the investor and what the country offers."

The maximum provincial leader of San Juan, Marcelo Orrego, highlighted that the world faces the challenge of climate change and the need for clean energy sources, pointing out that mining can provide the essential minerals for these solutions and environmental care. "Mining can provide critical minerals to develop those solutions and protect the environment simultaneously," he said, emphasizing that Argentina has the great opportunity to offer lithium and copper to the world, highly demanded minerals. "Our country is on its way to becoming a major player in the global supply of these minerals," he said, stressing the importance of the development of copper mining in San Juan, considering its strategic impact nationally and internationally.

The governor also expressed his confidence that during his term, a new mining project will start in San Juan, ending more than a decade without new constructions and positioning Argentina again in copper production. "We are sure that if we manage to develop this, it will be the key for many more projects to come," he assured. Finally, Orrego confirmed his support for the Incentive Regime for the Mining Industry (RIGI), emphasizing that, in the current economic context, it is crucial to generate trust to boost mining. "I am convinced that we must comply with the Mining Investments Law as well. We have a code, decrees, and if we also add the RIGI, it is an extraordinary combination for this activity to take off," Orrego concluded, accompanied by his vice governor, Fabián Martin, and the mayor of Rivadavia, Sergio Miodowsky. Ricardo Quintela, governor of La Rioja, also attended the inauguration.

The Copper Task Force is a reality: Day of definitions at the launch of the "International Conference: Argentina Copper"

In a groundbreaking event held during the second day of the tenth "International Exhibition: San Juan Mining Expo 2024", five Argentine provinces sealed a historic pact to boost the development of copper in the country. This agreement aims to replicate the success of the Lithium Board and aims to federalize efforts in the production of the red metal, crucial for global energy transformation.

In this context, the governors of San Juan, Mendoza, Salta, Jujuy, and Catamarca formed the "Interprovincial Task Force of Argentine Copper," a signing attended by the governor of Córdoba, Martín Llaryora, and the Secretary of Mining of the Nation, Luis Lucero, who endorsed this interprovincial initiative.

According to them, the objective of the Copper Task Force is to coordinate and harmonize the policies and measures necessary for copper development. This initiative seeks to accelerate large mining projects that require million-dollar investments and concrete guarantees for their viability, initiating a new cycle of growth for the activity.

Representing San Juan, Marcelo Orrego, the host governor, emphasized the importance of mining for his province, where 83% of the territory is mountainous, 14% desert, and only 3% cultivable. "Mining is vital for our economy and development," Orrego stressed, also highlighting the positive impact of a possible approval of the Incentive Regime for Large Mining Investments (RIGI).

The signing governors emphasized the need to deepen productive policies in the region and called on Congress to approve projects that provide additional fiscal guarantees to the Mining Investments Law. "We join forces to promote mining development in our provinces. The time is now," declared Orrego in line with this demand. "The international context, with favorable prices and a growing demand for copper, combined with the availability of advanced projects in Argentina, offers a unique opportunity for the country to become a world-class producer," the governors highlighted, without underestimating the importance of coordinating strategies for the rapid construction of these operations.

Alfredo Cornejo, governor of Mendoza, emphasized his province's need to seize the opportunity offered by energy transition and overcome the delay in mining development caused by the prohibition of activity since the enactment of Law 7722. "We are overcoming many resistances with political support," Cornejo asserted, mentioning the backing of Malargüe's mayor, Celso Jaque.

Gustavo Sáenz, governor of Salta, highlighted the importance of the RIGI, describing it as "historic, ambitious, and generous." Although he acknowledged the resistance it generates, he expressed his willingness to receive investments that benefit the region.

Martín Llaryora, representing Córdoba, justified his presence at the event by stating that mining development is beneficial not only for mining provinces but for all of Argentina. "It is one of the engines that Argentina needs to rely less on agriculture and climate," he affirmed.

Raúl Jalil, governor of Catamarca, expressed his expectations regarding the law being debated in the National Congress, emphasizing the need for a legal framework that reinforces investment and mining development, thus contributing to the country's macroeconomic stability.

From Jujuy, Carlos Sadir highlighted the strategic importance of these shared effort spaces and cited the Lithium Board formed by Jujuy, Salta, and Catamarca as a model to follow, which "resulted in a very good experience," expressing support for "replicating it with copper." "Argentina has to occupy a privileged place in the global minerals market, which we can achieve by working together," he argued and emphasized that both copper and lithium "are key resources in global energy transition." In addition, the governor of Jujuy made special reference to "invested capital, community development, the creation of direct and indirect jobs, and the generation of new companies," resulting from the various mining projects located in the country.

In his oversight role, Luis Lucero opined that the creation of the Copper Board reflects a remarkable strategic vision, as the world is currently moving under a paradigm of cooperation evident in various areas. "This is related to the growing international interest in Argentina's minerals. It is crucial to set aside personal interests to focus on the common good."

The private sector was also part of the "International Conference: Argentina Copper"

After the signing of the historic agreement for the establishment of the Interprovincial Board of Argentine Copper (MICA), the "International Exhibition: San Juan Mining Expo 2024" continued with two key panels addressing the sector's perspectives in Argentina.

The first panel, titled "The private sector's vision: The destinies of the mining industry and copper in a new period," took place following the participation of the governors and began with an introduction by Reid Sirrs, Canadian Ambassador to Argentina, who highlighted Canada's experience in mining and the potential between both countries. This session included:

-Michael Meding, Vice President of McEwen Copper and General Manager of the Los Azules Project, also President of the International Conference: Argentina Copper
-Alfredo Vitaller, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at the Josemaría Project and Vice President of the International Conference: Argentina Copper
-Javier Robeto, Vice President and Country Manager of Aldebaran Resources, Altar Project
-Carlos Ramos, Vice President of the Taca Taca Project
-Alejandra Cardona, Executive Director of the Argentine Chamber of Mining Companies
-Laura Yorghanjian, Executive Director of the Argentine-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, who facilitated the discussion and moderated the debate

Following this, the panel titled "The potential of copper in Argentina: investment options and strategies" took place, focusing on available options to maximize copper development in the country and the possibility of investing in companies operating in the region. Daniel Artana, Chief Economist of the Latin American Economic Research Foundation, concluded the meeting with an economic analysis titled "Six months: Significant advances and some uncertainties," providing a comprehensive overview of Argentina's economy since Javier Milei took office.

The closing of the Expo, also with a full house and messages of unity regarding the Argentine mining future

In the final act of the "International Exhibition: San Juan Mining Expo" prominent figures from the governmental and business spheres participated. Among them were the Secretary General of the San Juan Government, Emilio Achem; the Minister of Mining, Juan Pablo Perea; the Minister of Production, Gustavo Fernández; the Minister of Family and Human Development, Carlos Platero; the Minister of Education, Silvia Fuentes; the Secretary of Security, Gustavo Sánchez; the president of CAEM, Roberto Cacciola, and the president of the exhibition, Ricardo Martínez.

During the speeches, Emilio Achem thanked the organizers of the Expo on behalf of the Governor and the Provincial Executive Power. Achem emphasized that "the development of mining benefits not only mining provinces but the entire country." He cited as an example the governor of Córdoba, present at the event, who acknowledged that his companies can take advantage of and contribute to growth as suppliers to the mining sector.

Achem also highlighted the importance of providing clear signals of legal and institutional security, modernizing the State to make procedures more efficient and secure. "We must ensure to the people of San Juan the compliance with current regulations in terms of environmental sustainability and the development of the productive network of the province," he stated.

Ricardo Martínez, president of the event, thanked all attendees for participating over the three days. "I want to thank the organizers for holding this fair for so many years and for betting on this event for its unique characteristics," Martínez expressed. He emphasized that the establishment of the Copper Board represents a historic milestone that he hopes will be remembered by future generations as an event that changed history.

Martínez added, "For many years we have worked so that all of Argentina, with its Andean and Patagonian backbone, achieves the development it deserves. This advancement must strengthen the national economy, not only as a potentiality but as a tangible reality with a vision of greater immediacy."

Magazine

Edición 530 - Mayo 2024
Edición 529 - Abril 2024
Edición 528 - Marzo 2024
2024 Argentine Mining Compendium
Edición 527 - Febrero 2024
Edición 526 - Diciembre 2023
Edición 525 - Noviembre 2023
Edición 524 - Octubre 2023
Edición 523 - Septiembre 2023
Edición 522 - Agosto 2023
Edicion 521 - Julio 2023
Edición 520 - Junio 2023

Events

    Expo San Juan
    Lithium in South America
    Gold, Silver & Copper

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