Argentina is one of the last mining frontiers worldwide, with only a small part of its geological potential developed. Argentina offers Gold, Silver, Copper, Zinc, Lead, Molybdenum, Iron, Lithium, Potassium, nuclear minerals, rare earth metals. Over 70% of its potential is as of yet unexplored. In the north, mountain belts correlating with the Chilean geological belts, host important copper deposits, Taca Taca being a prominent example (operated by First Quantum – Canada).
The northwest of Argentina is a province where two of the great metalliferous belts of the central Andes converge: The belt of large copper deposits which enters from Chile from the west of the Saltenian Puna (Chuquicamata and La Escondida, two of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world are an example) and the polymetallic belts that extend down from Bolivia (auriferous, polimetalic, lead-zinciferous and silver-zinciferous, which host for example the world’s largest silver deposit, the Cerro Rico de Potosí), both pass through the Puna of Jujuy province and end in the Puna of Salta province. In other words, Salta province is at the crossroads of two world-class metallogenic belts.
Mineral potential in numbers
Argentina currently produces around 60 tonnes of gold per year, which leaves it shy of the world’s top ten producers. By comparison, Australia produced 330 tonnes and Canada 170 tonnes in 2021. There is scope for Argentina to catch up. Argentine gold production could at least double through a combination of the reactivation of existing projects and the exploration of fields estimated to hold around 80 million gold ounces.
Copper is one of Argentina’s most unexplored resources. Currently producing just 200,000 tonnes, the country lags the world’s largest producers by some margin – Australia produced 900,000 tonnes in 2021 and world-leading Chile produced 5.6 million tonnes. Argentina has the potential to surpass Australia’s total and produce over 1 million tonnes, which would rank it 6th in the world for copper production.
Argentina is the world’s tenth largest silver producer at 33.43 million ounces in 2019. By comparison, Australia produced 49.3 million ounces in 2019, and worldleading Mexico produced 222.3 million ounces. The country has discoverable reserves of 1.5 billion ounces, leaving plenty of room for growth.
Argentina is the world’s fourth-largest lithium producer at 6,200 tonnes in 2021, behind Australia (55,000), Chile (26,000) and China (14,000). The country also has the world’s third largest discovered reserves of lithium at 2.2 million tonnes – after Chile (9.2 million) and Australia (5.7 million). Argentina and Chile together account for around 65% of the world’s lithium reserves.
The mining industry is primed for a new sustained bull-run. Demand is outpacing supply for aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, and tin.
The gold price outlook is now also firmly in bull-run territory and will translate into acquisitions and mergers of junior mining companies at a significant premium.