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Argentina’s Copper Boom: How a New President and a Canadian Miner are Betting on Green Energy

A $2.5 billion copper project in Argentina could help meet the rising demand for the metal in the transition to renewable energy

by Victor Adetimilehin

Argentina, a country known for its rich natural resources, is poised to become a major player in the global copper market. The new president, Javier Milei, who took office in December 2023, has vowed to deregulate the economy and attract foreign investment, especially in the mining sector.

One of the beneficiaries of this policy shift is McEwen Copper Inc., a Canadian company that owns the Los Azules copper project in San Juan province. The project, estimated to cost $2.5 billion and scheduled to start production by the end of the decade, could potentially yield over 400,000 tonnes of copper annually for 36 years.


Why Copper Matters

We use copper in electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, and other green technologies because it is a vital metal for the transition to a low-carbon future.  According to the International Energy Agency, the demand for copper could increase by 50% by 2040, driven by the electrification of the global economy.

However, the supply of copper is not keeping up with the demand, as existing mines are depleting and new discoveries are scarce. This has led to a surge in copper prices, which reached a record high of $10,747 per tonne in May 2023.


The Challenges and Opportunities of Mining in Argentina

Despite having the world’s third-largest copper reserves after Chile and Peru, Argentina’s mining industry faces challenges due to political and economic instability, high taxes, currency controls, and environmental regulations. Many mining projects have been stalled or abandoned due to these challenges. 

However, President Milei, a libertarian economist, has promised to change the situation by cutting red tape, eliminating customs and capital restrictions, and offering tax incentives for large-scale infrastructure projects. He has also pledged to respect the property rights of mining companies and to foster a dialogue with local communities and environmental groups.

The mining industry welcomes these reforms, considering Argentina a frontier for exploration and development.
McEwen Copper, for instance, has been working on the Los Azules project since 2006, and has recently accelerated its drilling and feasibility studies. The company is also in talks with existing and prospective investors to raise about $100 million for the next phase of the project.


A Model for Sustainable Mining

McEwen Copper is not only aiming to produce copper, but also to do it in a sustainable and responsible way. The company is planning to use renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to power its operations, and to employ a leaching method that would reduce its carbon footprint. It is also seeking to obtain an environmental permit this year, and to engage with the local stakeholders and authorities.

The company’s founder, Rob McEwen, who is also the founder of Goldcorp Inc., one of the world’s largest gold producers, said that he believes in the long-term prospects of copper and the potential of Argentina. He said that he hopes that the Los Azules project will be a model for other mining ventures in the country, and that it will contribute to the economic and social development of the region.

The Los Azules project is one of the many examples of how Argentina is opening up to the world and embracing the opportunities of the green energy transition. With a new president, a new vision, and a new partner, the country is ready to unleash its copper boom.

Source: Mining.com

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