Argentina, officially known as the Argentine Republic, is a federal republic located in South America. Together with Chile, it occupies the entire southern tip or “cone” of South America with Chile dominating the western edge of the elongated bulge and Argentina the central and eastern parts. Argentina also borders Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil to the north. To the east, the country has a long maritime border with the Atlantic Ocean. Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world and the second largest in Latin America (Brazil being the largest country) with a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2.
Argentina’s economy is the third largest in Latin America. Agriculture and manufacturing are more important to the country’s GDP than mining; however, the mining and energy sectors are not insignificant to the country. Argentina is an important producer of primary aluminum, lead, copper, zinc, silver and gold. Several major mining companies are operating in the country, including Glencore Xstrata, Teck and Barrick. Argentina is not without its difficulties in terms of corruption and it is ranked 107th out of 175 jurisdictions in the International Transparency Corruption Perceptions Index for 2014, alongside Bolivia (103) and Ecuador (110); the Fraser Institute ranks the country according to province and there is a wide range of perception index ratings ranging from 62 to 107 out of 109 jurisdictions reviewed.
PRINCIPAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATOR
In 1993, Argentina implemented a new Mining Investment Law (No 24,196), as amended by Law No 25,429; a Mining Reorganization Law (No. 24,224); a Mining Modernization Law (No 24,498); as well as a Mining Federal Agreement (No. 24,228). In 1997, a Unified Text on Mining (Argentina Mining Code (AMC)) (Decree 456/97) was passed, incorporating all the previous amendments made to the Mining Law of 1993 (No 1919). Special regulations exist for hydrocarbons and radioactive minerals.
The federal administrative organization responsible for mining regulation is the Federal Ministry of Planning, Public Works and Investment (Ministerio de Planificacion Federal, Inversion Publica y Servicios), which has a Mining Department headed by the Secretary of Mines (Secretaria de Mineria). Each Argentine province has specific concession regulations and, according to the territory in which the mines are located, they are either classed as national or provincial private property (Art. 7, AMC).
GRANTS AND FORM OF MINERAL TITLE
Mines are divided into three categories:
- Mines that belong to the state and can only be mined by means of a concession (e.g., gold, silver, platinum, mercury, copper, iron, lead, tin, zinc, nickel, cobalt, bismuth, aluminum, beryllium, vanadium, cadmium, tantalum, molybdenum, lithium, potassium, fossil fuels and precious stones);
- Mines which are either given in preference to the landowner or are designed as being of general public use (e.g., alluvial deposits, peat bogs and tailings from abandoned mines), and;
- Mines that belong to a landowner and can not be mined without the owner’s consent (namely, quarry materials).
Mining rights are distinct under the law from surface rights and form a property right (Art. 11, AMC). The forms of mineral title are set out below:
- Exploration Permit (Cateos): An exploration permit is mandatory to perform exploration activities. The permit application shall include a minimum work plan, a budget and a provisional surface charge, which will be refunded if the concession is rejected or granted for a smaller area. The titleholder has the exclusive right to obtain mining concessions over the exploration areas. The maximum duration of the exploration permit is three years and it is necessary to make a discovery in order to obtain a mining right. The area of each concession is divided in surface units of 500 hectares. The exploration concession cannot exceed 20 units and it is limited to a maximum of 20 concessions and 400 units for a single person or legal entity per province.
- Mining Licenses (Minas): A mining license is granted upon a discovery. The AMC states that the state is bound to grant mining concessions to any person who discovers a mine. It also requires a work plan and budget, and the investment proposed must be incurred in order to avoid forfeiture. The licence is perpetual, as it is a form of real property right, but nevertheless there are ongoing obligations, such as the requirement to update the environmental plan, make annual payments and not stop work activities for a period of four years or more. According to Article 18, AMC, mines are granted for an unlimited time. Pertenencia is the area within which the mining operator performs mining activities and this must be defined and approved by a judge. The area has a horizontal length of 300m and 200m latitude, extendible to 300m. The measures for iron mines are 600/400 m, extendible to 600m; and coal and other combustible minerals 900/600 m extendible to 900 m. The enlargement and enhancement of the mining area are subject to a concession.
Each province has its own mining procedural law, which may be a mining administrative law or a mining procedural code: Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Corrientes, Chaco, Chubut, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Jujuy, La Pampa, La Rioja, Mendoza, Misiones, Neuquén, Río Negro, San Juan, San Luis, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero, Tierra del Fuego and Tucumán have administrative proceedings, whilst Catamarca and Salta judicial proceedings (similar to Chile).
Mining operators are obliged to submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to starting any mining activities. Each province has its own environmental authority, which approves or rejects the EIS within a period of 60 days from the EIS filing date. The EIS must be updated every two years according to the activities conducted. With respect to surface rights, there exists in favour of a miner an absolute right to acquire necessary surface rights (Art. 156 et seq., AMC), including the right to have such rights expropriated. Compensation may be due to the surface rights owner in such instances. Miners also have the right to use water and other rights necessary for mining activities, subject only to prior rights.
See Argentina – Environmental Overview Commentary.