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THE Federal Government introduced several measures to promote foreign investment and completed several privatizations of state-owned companies it had been working on since 1989. It also put into effect some drastic austerity plans imposed on Argentina by the IMF, such as the closure and/or merging of several state-owned banks, consolidation of government agencies and a reduction in the number of public employees. The exchange rate was maintained fairly constant throughout 1990, at about $5,400 Australes to the U.S. dollar.

In the mining sector, the principal government agency was downgraded from a Sub-Secretary within the Ministry of Economy down to a Directorate. This agency has continued to promote several mining areas in the country to foreign companies and has consolidated the geological/ore reserves and projects information into a useful manual for an initial search.

Despite the above-mentioned efforts, the performance in terms of economic growth, foreign and national investment, deficit reduction and public opinion was dismal during 1990. Federal and provincial governments have been plagued with scandals and accusations of corruption of government executives. Many of these have involved even the President himself, Mr Carlos Menem, and his family and close advisers. A new Minister of Finance was put in office in February, at a time when the tensions in Argentina were reaching critical levels. As usual, short-term compromises were reached with the labour unions and the situation was temporarily diffused. The government carried on with band-aid solutions until the end of 1990, when the head of the Ministry of Economy was replaced and a new policy was introduced, which involves the complete prohibition of printing new money and a hope that this will bring down inflation.

The most important privatizations involved the telephone company Entel, the airline Aerolineas Argentinas, and parts of the railway and ports. An international tender was put out for YMAD, which owns and operates a gold-silver mine in Catamarca.

The only aluminium smelter in Argentina, ALUAR, reached a record production of 166,000 t. National aluminium consumption reached 35,000 t and ALUAR exported 121,000 t of primary aluminium and 30,000 t of semi-finished products.

Sulfacid SA, the only zinc producer in Argentina, produced the same amount of zinc as in 1989, at 31,000 t, and decreased its internal sales to 18,000 t from 20,000 t. Sulphuric acid production reached 55,000 t. Cerro Castillo produced 7,000 t of a polymetallic concentrate (gold, lead, copper and zinc), which is shipped to Europe, and 12,000 t of zinc concentrate. Mine output was 200,000 t in 1990. The company is to expand its mill capacity from 600 t/d to 800 t/d in 1991 and is undertaking a feasibility study to build a new mill with a capacity of 2,000 t/d in 1994.

No gold production was reported during 1990. Minera Valle del Cura, which in 1989 had commissioned part of a mine with the same name in San Juan (on the border with Chile just across from El Indio), decided to stop production and concentrate on the development of an overall project which comprises Rio Frio and several other hydrothermal alterations in the area. At the end of 1990, the parent company, Minera Rio Frio, was seeking joint venture partners.

Silver production decreased to about 9,000 kg at the Farallon Negro deposit in Catamarca. This mine is now apparently depleting its ore reserves and plans are under way to commission two other mines in the same area and use the existing mill. Another option being examined at the end of 1990 was the formation of a joint venture company and a tender was being prepared.

Crude steel production in Argentina decreased in 1990 to 3.6 Mt from 3.9 Mt the year before, while domestic consumption fell to 1.5 Mt from 2 Mt in 1989. The total tonnage imported reached 2.4 Mt. Altos Hornos Zapla produced 56,000 t of pig iron and 81,000 t of crude steel. The biggest producers in Argentina are Somisa and Acindar.

Several provincial governments were very active in promoting exploration joint ventures. The governments in Mendoza and San Juan particularly have arranged their mining structure into much more flexible organizations that are at liberty to form joint ventures. BHP, Anglo American, RTZ and Cambior were carrying out exploration programmes, but no details have yet been released. Cerro Castillo was also exploring for gold near its Mina Angela mine, Chubut, and at Cerro Nahuelpan, near Esquel.
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Title Annotation:review of the Argentinian mineral mining industry in 1990
Publication:Mining Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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