The Argentine Institute of Mining Law (IADEM) is calling for the annulment of Law N°10.608, which declared lithium and its derivatives as strategic natural resources in La Rioja province and which prioritizes state companies when it comes to the exploitation of the battery metal.
The call follows the unilateral approval and publication, by the provincial government, of the Law on January 17, 2023, right after having suspended, for 120 days, all exploration permits and concessions previously granted to private companies.
According to the Institute, La Rioja has gone beyond its competencies by suspending and establishing causes for nullity of search, prospecting and exploration permits and concessions in the provincial territory.
In a communiqué, IADEM also noted that Law N°10.608 collides with and undermines the existing Mining Code, which establishes that decisions regarding Argentina’s mineral endowment are delegated by the provinces to the national government, in agreement with article 75 of the Constitution.
In addition to this, “the Mining Code regulates, among others, the mechanisms for the acquisition, maintenance and termination of mining rights (exploration and concession permits, among others). This means that the Province of La Rioja cannot just decide to rule on these matters,” the media statement reads.
The Institute also pointed out that the province doesn’t have the right to monopolize the mining business.
“It is worth remembering that article 346 and the ones that follow in the Mining Code clearly establish that the role of the State is limited to prospecting (on its own or through third parties) and that the development of mining operations, including exploitation, has to be performed by private companies to whom – generally speaking – mines should be transferred, even those mines discovered by government agencies,” the release states.
In La Rioja, Canada’s Origen Resources has a permit to explore the 48,325-hectare Los Sapitos project, a new lithium exploration target within a prospective tectonic corridor.
Two other provinces, Jujuy and Catamarca have entered the lithium rush, with the former hosting the Sales de Jujuy project where the provincial government holds an 8.5% stake, together with Australia’s Orocobre (67.5%) and Toyota Tsuho (25%).
In Catamarca, on the other hand, Livent Corporation leads the Fénix project, an integrated brine extraction and lithium processing facility located in the Salar del Hombre Muerto.
Data from the Argentinian Chamber of Mining Companies state that the country hosts 21% of the world’s lithium reserves and together with Bolivia (24%) and Chile (11%), is part of the so-called Lithium Triangle.