Argentina Aims to Become a Top 10 Copper Producer

Argentina, known for its wine rather than mining, is eyeing to become a top ten copper producer by 2030, with an investor-friendly approach attracting global players like Glencore and Lundin Mining to its mountainous north.

Government forecasts show that the country has a pipeline of copper projects that could produce 793,000 tonnes annually by the end of the decade, positioning it as an important new supplier as demand for the metal rises globally due to a push for electrification.

Leading the way is Lundin Mining’s Josemaria project in northern San Juan province, aiming to produce over 130,000 tonnes a year in the pre-construction phase. Behind that in the queue are Glencore’s $4.5 billion El Pachón; MARA, owned by Yamana Gold, Glencore, and Newmont Corp; First Quantum Minerals’ Taca Taca, and McEwen Mining’s Los Azules.

Argentina’s San Juan province is home to five of the country’s eight primary copper projects that have a total capex of $22 billion, with three more located in Mendoza, Catamarca, and Salta, all near the north-west Andean border with Chile.

The country has an estimated 65 million tonnes of copper reserves, according to a 2022 government report, equivalent to 3% of the global total. However, officials see mining as a potential future driver of exports, which could help the indebted country bring in much-needed hard currency.

Franco Mignacco, president of the Argentine Chamber of Mining Entrepreneurs, stated that the global electric vehicle boom would be a key driver, as copper demand is forecast to double to 50 million tonnes by 2050 from 2020 levels. Carmaker Stellantis made a $155 million investment earlier this year in Los Azules.

Argentina is battling an economic crisis, but the need for growth has added impetus to sectors such as mining and energy. Although Argentina has built up a strong copper project pipeline, it still needs to improve its foreign exchange market and tax system for the sector to ensure robust mining development up to 2030.


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