ARGENTINA – Canada’s AQUILINE RESOURCES attributes the rejection by Ro Negro provincial governor Miguel Saiz of its Calcatreu gold-silver project in southern Argentina to electioneering, said company VP exploration Martin Walter.
“This is an election year. These things happen,” said Walter.
At the end of May Aquiline submitted the environmental impact study (EIS) for Calcatreu to Ro Negro authorities to be evaluated by the provincial environment commission Codema. Saiz, elected to office in 2003 and due to serve until December 2007, subsequently rejected the Calcatreu EIS on the grounds that the company wanted to use cyanide to extract the gold. He also said he would prohibit any project that involves the use of cyanide or mercury.
“What most interests him [Saiz] is the lives of the people of Ro Negro,” said the head of the province’s press department, Claudio Mozzoni. “He says he will not change a gram nor a kilo or tonne of gold for the life of a Ro Negro person.”
Mozzoni said the decision was a matter of policy and was unrelated to local elections. “Election campaigns have not yet started,” he emphasized. Two of Ro Negro’s five representatives in the Argentine congress are coming up for re-election in October this year.
The formal analysis of the Calcatreu EIS will continue even though Saiz has given advance notice of his decision and instructed Codema not to authorize the project, Mozzoni said.
Aquiline has plans to invest US$43.5 million at Calcatreu to produce 97,000 oz of gold and 580,000 oz of silver annually over the first four of the seven-year mine life, according to the company.
A meeting between local government officials and company workers was due to take place on June 7 to discuss the motives for Saiz’s decision and solutions to labour issues should Aquiline close its local operations, according to press reports.