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Copper in Argentina: Doubts over future remain despite government optimism

Copper in Argentina: Doubts over future remain despite government optimism

The Argentine copper industry has great potential and can achieve the rapid growth observed in gold and silver production over the last two decades. In addition to the fact that the country has sufficient reserves to become one of the world's biggest copper producers, presient Cristina Kirchner's government has a special interest in expediting planned copper investments in order to help boost an economy that has been losing steam since late 2011. However, increased costs and Argentina's high political risk are heavy burdens that could curb expected copper development over the coming years.

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Copper production and projects in Argentina
Argentine copper production depends largely on Bajo de la Alumbrera in Catamarca province, but the mine is nearing the end of its useful life. Expectations to replace that output and raise future production rest firmly on the Agua Rica and El Pachón projects, both of which are undergoing studies, but a number of other developments are also on the horizon.

The pros and the cons
Argentina has enough high potential projects for levels of copper production to rise significantly in the coming years. Output could climb as high as 1 million tonnes per year with backing from local and national authorities, but various government restrictions and political uncertainty threaten to hold up development of the sector.

Taxes and environmental opposition
Growth of copper production in Argentina has been hindered by the heavy tax burden despite certain other benefits. Strong opposition to the development of mines from local residents and environmental groups has also led to legislation that effectively prohibits mining in some provinces.

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