An information exchange between Argentina and Western Australia is gaining momentum, with the end goal to establish the Latin American country as a top international mining destination. 

While Argentina is host to the same mineral-rich rocks as its South American neighbour Chile – home to several major gold and copper mines, Argentina isn’t as widely recognised as an international mining destination.

Argentina’s mining exports for 2020 were expected to reach only about $US2.4bn, a fraction of the $US26.7bn Chile generated in mining exports between January and September 2020.

This is despite Argentina being the second-largest country in South America, spanning 2.8 million square kilometres.

Two years ago, Argentina made moves to change that by seeking out a partnership with Western Australia with the aim of learning how Australia’s largest resources state, and a world-class mining jurisdiction, governs its mining industry and attracts significant investment.

This led to the Argentina and WA governments inking a memorandum of understanding (MoU) back in May 2018.

Tony Bullen, executive director resource tenure at the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) said the agreement is a new and exciting way for the state to build relationships and open new markets for Western Australian goods and services.

DMIRS has successfully delivered programs to other countries explaining the governance principles applied in Western Australia.

“The approach taken by the department was to deliver an overview of the Western Australian experience and to seek input from the host nation to ensure that their questions were answered,” Bullen said.

An indicative program would focus on legislation and mining code, a mining titles system, community engagement, land access and interagency collaboration, geoscience information, environmental and safety regulation and royalties, among other things.

Pathfinder Resources’ (ASX:PF1) has assisted in initiating the information exchange at a provincial level with the La Rioja Province, a region that hosts several Tier 1 multi-million oz gold mines controlled by the majors.

“Every province is the owner of the resources, the same way that it is here in Western Australia,” Argentine Chamber of Commerce – Australia chairman (WA) Diego Berazategui said.

“But then there is a mining code that is national, so that’s why it’s important to get everyone involved.

“And the discussion that we had was that maybe it was better to do it through the provinces that are the actual owners of the resources, and also betting on the competition of the provinces, because as soon as the other provinces see that La Rioja is doing this, they’ll want to do it too.”

Berazategui is spearheading the initiative with the WA government and is currently liaising with the La Rioja Province to finalise the structure and timing of the training program.

This is a positive move as the region begins to attract greater attention from ASX-listed juniors keen to explore Argentina’s abundant wealth of resources but wanting a greater level of regulatory certainty and government support.

Pathfinder’s King Tut project is located in the La Rioja Province and sits not far from Barrick Gold’s Veladero mine, which produced 550,000oz of gold in 2019.

The Gualcamayo mine, which is owned by Colombian company Mineros S.A. and regularly produces more than 100,000oz of gold a year, lies to the south.

Argentinean province partners with WA to share mining knowledge
Regional map of mines surrounding Pathfinder’s King Tut project. Pic: Supplied

Fellow junior ASX-listed explorers Challenger Exploration (ASX:CEL) and E2 Metals (ASX:E2M) also have projects in Argentina.

Meanwhile, major iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) will also likely be monitoring the collaboration closely as it owns 450,000 hectares of copper-gold prospective tenements in Argentina.

The interest in the region from the majors is on the rise, with South32 (ASX:S32) revealing in early February that it had inked a deal to earn a 65 per cent stake in Sable Resources’ Don Julio project in the San Juan Province by spending $US8.5m over five years.

DMIRS’ plan is to provide information about how the WA government administers its mining system and deliver training models to La Rioja government officials.

The collaboration is widely viewed as a major positive for Australian explorers from an investment perspective because it will provide greater certainty around exploration and mining in Argentina.

“We welcome the information exchange between the La Rioja Province and the WA government. This is a positive step forward that will help strengthen the relationship between Argentina and Australia,” Pathfinder managing director Shannon Green said.


This article was developed in collaboration with Pathfinder Resources, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.


This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.