MICLA

McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

Argentina

Key Data

Population:42,192,494 people Area:2,780,400 km2 Density:15 people / km2 Demographics:white (mostly Spanish and Italian) 97%,
mestizo, Amerindian, or other non-white groups 3%
Mineral Resources:silver, copper, gold GDP:$709.7 billion GDP per capita:$16,820 GINI:44.5

History

History

The first records of human settlement in the region we now call Argentina occurred at some point between 15,000 and 10,000 B.C.E. Argentina was inhabited by a variety of indigenous groups who led semi-nomadic, hunter gatherer lifestyles including the Mapuche, the Guaraní, the Wichí, the Toba, the Huarpe, and the Querendí [1]. The first wave of Spanish colonists and settlers arrived in Argentina in the sixteenth century. In 1778, the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata was established with Buenos Aires as its capital [2]. The indigenous people’s experience of colonial rule was dominated by forced labor, enslavement, and death by disease and war [3]. On July 9th, 1816, Argentina declared independence from Spain, but it was followed by a series of civil wars between federalists and unitarists that ended in 1880 [4].  During this period, the central government’s “Indian problem” was solved through conquest of indigenous land and extermination of indigenous people, most notably in the Conquest of the Desert in 1879 [5].  While the indigenous population was being annihilated, the government simultaneously marketed Argentina’s fast growing economy to Europe which resulted in drastic increase in immigration by Italians, Spainiards, and Europe’s Jewish population [6].  Argentina’s lucrative agricultural exports made it one of the (**world’s?) richest countries in the early twentieth century [7]. However, the economic crash in 1930s caused economic strife and political instability.  Out of this hardship emerged one of Argentina’s most formative leaders, Juan Perón, a populist leader who won support because of his commitment to working class struggles, economic independence, and social justice [8]. Military coups dominated the period from 1955-1976 and in 1976 a brutal military junta was established.  This junta was responsible for the deaths and disappearances of around 30,000 people and left a legacy of fear and terror amongst the Argentinian population. The economy also took a heavy blow during these years, and the post-junta leaders attempted to salvage it by implementing a neoliberal austerity program; this austerity program contributed to the economic collapse in 2001 [9].  In the past decade, the Kirchners have attempted to reverse some of the harmful effects of the austerity measures and the neoliberal IMF policies.

Mining in national history

Historically, mining has not played a large role in Argentina’s economy. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries people began to extract minerals for domestic consumption and production, but mining did not constitute a major part of the economy until the late twentieth century.[1]



[1] Denis Burke. “Mining and Human Rights Violations in Argentina.” Friends of the Earth International. September 11, 2012. http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/mining-oil-gas/latest-news/mining-and-human-rights-violations-in-argentina-2

 


[1] “Argentina Overview.” World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. May 2008. http://www.minorityrights.org/4093/argentina/argentina-overview.html

[2] Jill Hedges. Argentina: A Modern History. I.B. Taurus: London, 2011.

[3] Daniel K. Lewis. History of Argentina. Greenwood Press: Westport, 2001. p. 19

[4]  Lewis, 55

[5] Hedges, 23

[6] “Argentina Overview”

[7] Lewis, 53

[8] Hedges, 85

[9] Hedges, 170

Mining Characteristics

Mining Characteristics in Argentina:  Despite the lack of a significant mining economy for most of its history, Argentina has rich mineral deposits in the western Andean region of the country.  Some of these minerals include lead, zinc, tin, copper, iron ore, gold, manganese, petroleum, uranium, molybdenum, and silver.[1]

Number and Type of Mines: There are around 614 mining projects in Argentina which include active mines, concessions, and prospective mines.[2] The majority of the mining projects are large-scale open-pit mines.

Key Issues: Access to water has been a key rallying point for many communities living near mining projects because of the significant quantities of water used in mining processes.  For example, the Bajo de Alumbrera mine uses 50 million liters of water a day in order to process the rocks at the mine site and these processes often involve the use of harmful chemicals such as cyanide.[3]  Their excessive water consumption threatens the surrounding communities access to clean, uncontaminated water.



[1] CIA. “Argentina.” CIA World Fact book. April 16, 2013. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ar.html

[2] Secretería de Minería. “Minera en Numeros.” Ministerio de Planificación Federal, Inversión Pública, y Servicios. http://www.mineria.gov.ar/pdf/mineriaennumeros.pdf

[3] No a la Mina. “Profesionales de Metán advirtieron sobre peligros de explotación minera en la zona.” December 14, 2007. http://www.noalamina.org/mineria-argentina/mineria-salta/profesionales-metan-advirtieron-peligros-explotacion-minera-zona

Economic Context

ECONOMIC CONTEXT: After the economic crash in 2001, Argentina focused its economic activity on exports to which mining exports were essential. Mining investments increased 72% from 2011 to 2012, with the total amount invested from foreign and local sources amounting to US$3.8 billion.[1] The mining exports in 2010 amounted to over US$4,500[2] million, and the investments in mining as well as the exports have continued to grow. In 2011, it was estimated that mining constituted about 3.1 % of Argentina’s GDP.[3]

Unemployment rate: In 2012 the unemployment rate was 7.2%.



[1] Cecilia Jamasmie. “Mining investment in Argentina grows 72% despite risky business climate.” Mining.com. January 30, 2013. http://www.mining.com/mining-investment-in-argentina-grows-72-despite-risky-business-climate-45507/

[2] Australia Unlimited. “Mining to Argentina.” Australian Government. June 9, 2011. http://www.austrade.gov.au/Export/Export-Markets/Countries/Argentina/Industries/Mining

[3] Joachim Bamrud. “Mining GDP contribution triples in Latin America.” Mining Weekly. October 19, 2012. http://www.miningweekly.com/article/mining-gdp-contribution-triples-in-latin-america-2012-10-19

Political Context

POLITICAL CONTEXT: As previously mentioned, mining has not historically been an important sector in Argentina’s economy.  However, in 1989 Carlos Menem implemented neoliberal economic policies in Argentina which privatized state-owned industry and liberalized trade and market relations.  Though Menem was from the Peronist party, his economic liberalization was a sharp departure from the party’s traditional policy.  However, the free market reforms and the liberalization of Argentina’s economy allowed for an influx of foreign investments and an increase in exports in all of Argentina’s industrial sectors including mining.[1]

In 2003, Nestor Kirchner was elected as president of Argentina. Kirchner was a staunch Peronist, and he inherited an economy that had collapsed under IMF Structural Adjustment Policies and neoliberal economic reforms.  Kirchner sought to re-nationalize the industries which were privatized under Menem and empower Argentina’s economic autonomy.[2]  Nestor Kirchner died suddenly of a heart attack in October 2010, yet his policies lived on with his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner who was elected in 2007.[3]  Despite Kirchner’s commitment to nationalization and economic independence, the mining industry has been largely protected from kirchnerism, evident in the immense growth of foreign investments in the mining industry.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK: The Argentine constitution and mining code serve as the legal basis for matters concerning mining, environmental protection, and extractive industry.  Also, due to Argentina’s federal structure many regulations are decided on a provincial basis and thus legal frameworks do differ from province to province. The following are key laws and articles which have given both the mining industry and civil society legal standing on these issues.

Article 124 in the 1994 constitution stipulates that provinces have ownership over the natural resources in their territory and they are allowed to engage in international agreements without approval from the national government.[4] Law 24.196, or the Mining investment law, was passed in 1993 and creates incentives for investment in mining such as a 30-year guarantee of fiscal stability for new projects, exemption of import duties on capital goods, and an upper ceiling for provincial taxes.[5]

The Argentine mining code outlines the relationship between the national government, provincial government and the owner of the mining concession or territory.  Article 7 in the Mining code states that the mines are private goods of the provinces that they are located in. In article 9, the nation state is prohibited from taking part in mineral extraction unless stated otherwise in the mining code, and this must be done by a private investor.  Article 11 makes the distinction between the mineral deposit/mine and the land itself.[6]

The General Environmental Law was passed in 2002 which stated the national minimum guidelines to follow so as to ensure environmental protection. It stipulated the need for preservation, conservation, the betterment of the quality of the environmental resources and the quality of life for present and future generations, and prevention of the harmful or dangerous effects generated by human impact on the environment.  This law stipulates environmental guidelines that must be followed nationwide but provides no enforcing mechanism. Therefore, its value lies in providing legal grounds to challenge environmental abuses. 

The Glacier Protection law passed in 2010, is a national law that forbids all mining activity in mountain glacier regions. This law aims to protect glacial ice zones and water resources which have been threatened due to the growth of mining in Argentina’s mountainous regions. The Glacier Protection law has been a source of contention in Argentine government since 2008 when it was proposed as many with interests in the mining industry feared that it would have a prohibitory effect.[7]  It was originally vetoed by Cristina Fernández in 2008; however, when it was voted on again in 2010 Fernández supported it.

The cyanide ban is a law that has been passed in several Argentine provinces which prohibits the use of cyanide and other harmful chemicals in mining processes.  These laws have provided a legal framework for activists to challenge the growth of open-pit mega-mines. The law has been passed in the provinces of Chubut, Rio Negro, Tucumán, Mendoza, La Pampa, Córdoba, San Luis, and Rioja.[8]



[1] “Profiling Argentina’s Mining Industry.” The International Resource Journal. July, 2010. http://www.internationalresourcejournal.com/features/features_july_10/profiling_argentina_s_mining_industry.html

[2] Azul Mertnoff. “Two hundred years of Argentina, seven years of Kirchnerism.” Council on Hemispheric Affairs. June 11, 2010. http://www.coha.org/two-hundred-years-of-argentina-seven-years-of-kirchnerism/

[3] Ibid

[4] Convención Nacional Constituyente. “Constitución Nacional de la República de Argentina,” August 22, 1994. Accessed at http://pdba.georgetown.edu/constitutions/argentina/argen94.html

[5] Honorable Cámara de Diputados de la Nación, “Ley 24.196: Inversiones Mineras.” Abril 28 de 1993. http://www1.hcdn.gov.ar/dependencias/cmineria/ley_24196b.htm

[6] Secretaría de Minería de la Nación. “Codigo Mineria: Legislación Minera y Tributaria.” 1997. http://www.mineria.gov.ar/codigominero-completo.htm

[7] Luis Andres Henao. “Argentine Glacier Bill On Ice As Debate Fails.” Mines and Communities. August 5, 2010. http://www.minesandcommunities.org//article.php?a=10298

[8] F. Macías and Rodríguez, L. “To Cyanide or Not to Cyanide? Some Argentinian Provinces Banned Use of Cyanide in Mining Activities: Is This Prohibition Legal?” Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, 46: 2009. p. 237-250

Social Context

SOCIAL CONTEXT: Argentine civil society has responded powerfully to the substantial increase in mines across Argentina.  In many communities across the province, groups called “Asamblea de Vecinos Autoconvocados,” or assembly of self-organized neighbors, have emerged in opposition to the mining projects.  These assemblies have radically departed from traditional modes of mobilization which may be along political party lines or through unions. Assemblies draw their strength from the power of grassroots mobilization and community involvement as they provide a voice to articulate the desires of the affected communities.[1]  The assemblies also put emphasis on their horizontal non-hierarchical structure and their commitment to participatory democracy as opposed to representative democracy.  This model has been extremely successful in Argentina because it has created a decentralized network of strong sustainable locally based assemblies in response to mining projects across the country.



[1] Roberta Villalón. 2007. “Neoliberalism, Corruption, and Legacies of Contention: Argentina’s Social Movements, 1993- 2006.” Latin American Perspectives, 34. p.146

Bibliography

“Argentina Overview.” World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. May 2008. http://www.minorityrights.org/4093/argentina/argentina-overview.html

Australia Unlimited. “Mining to Argentina.” Australian Government. June 9, 2011. http://www.austrade.gov.au/Export/Export-Markets/Countries/Argentina/Industries/Mining

Bamrud, Joachim. “Mining GDP contribution triples in Latin America.” Mining Weekly. October 19, 2012. http://www.miningweekly.com/article/mining-gdp-contribution-triples-in-latin-america-2012-10-19

Burke, Denis. “Mining and Human Rights Violations in Argentina.” Friends of the Earth International. September 11, 2012. http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/mining-oil-gas/latest-news/mining-and-human-rights-violations-in-argentina-2

CIA. “Argentina.” CIA World Fact book. April 16, 2013. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ar.html

Convención Nacional Constituyente. “Constitución Nacional de la República de Argentina,” August 22, 1994. Accessed at http://pdba.georgetown.edu/constitutions/argentina/argen94.html

Hedges, Jill. Argentina: A Modern History. I.B. Taurus: London, 2011.

Henao, Luis Andres. “Argentine Glacier Bill On Ice As Debate Fails.” Mines and Communities. August 5, 2010. http://www.minesandcommunities.org//article.php?a=10298

Honorable Cámara de Diputados de la Nación, “Ley 24.196: Inversiones Mineras.” Abril 28 de 1993. http://www1.hcdn.gov.ar/dependencias/cmineria/ley_24196b.htm

Jamasmie, Cecilia. “Mining investment in Argentina grows 72% despite risky business climate.” Mining.com. January 30, 2013. http://www.mining.com/mining-investment-in-argentina-grows-72-despite-risky-business-climate-45507/

Lewis, Daniel K.. History of Argentina. Greenwood Press: Westport, 2001.

Macías, F. and Rodríguez, L. “To Cyanide or Not to Cyanide? Some Argentinian Provinces Banned Use of Cyanide in Mining Activities: Is This Prohibition Legal?” Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, 46: 2009. p. 237-250

Mertnoff, Azul. “Two hundred years of Argentina, seven years of Kirchnerism.” Council on Hemispheric Affairs. June 11, 2010. http://www.coha.org/two-hundred-years-of-argentina-seven-years-of-kirchnerism/

No a la Mina. “Profesionales de Metán advirtieron sobre peligros de explotación minera en la zona.” December 14, 2007. http://www.noalamina.org/mineria-argentina/mineria-salta/profesionales-metan-advirtieron-peligros-explotacion-minera-zona

“Profiling Argentina’s Mining Industry.” The International Resource Journal. July, 2010. http://www.internationalresourcejournal.com/features/features_july_10/profiling_argentina_s_mining_industry.html

Secretería de Minería. “Minera en Numeros.” Ministerio de Planificación Federal, Inversión Pública, y Servicioshttp://www.mineria.gov.ar/pdf/mineriaennumeros.pdf

Secretaría de Minería de la Nación. “Codigo Mineria: Legislación Minera y Tributaria.” 1997. http://www.mineria.gov.ar/codigominero-completo.htm

Villalón, Roberta. 2007. “Neoliberalism, Corruption, and Legacies of Contention: Argentina’s Social Movements, 1993- 2006.” Latin American Perspectives, 34.


Timeline of Key Events

2010
2009
2005
2003
1994