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ECONOMY | 07-03-2023 11:11

Argentina’s copper rush lures top power generator Central Puerto

One of Argentina’s biggest power producers is trying to get in on the nation’s copper boom as the rush for key metals in the global energy transition accelerates.

One of Argentina’s biggest power producers is trying to get in on the nation’s copper boom as the rush for key metals in the global energy transition accelerates.

Central Puerto SA wants to take non-operating stakes in copper projects, gaining a board seat to help an international investor navigate the complex waters of Argentine politics and regulations. The Buenos Aires-based firm is looking at three projects — in San Juan, Santa Cruz and Salta provinces — and has received partnership interest from a mining company. 

“As a new arrival with a learning curve ahead, we’re looking at projects that are a little more developed, so not in the greenfield stage — projects with more certainty and less risk,” Adrian Salvatore, Central Puerto’s corporate affairs director, said in a Monday interview at a mining conference in Toronto.

The company, which trades in New York, recently changed its corporate statutes to be able to diversify out of power generation and tap the growth in Argentina’s minerals sector.

While neighbouring Chile is the world’s biggest exporter of copper, developments on the Argentine side of the Andes are only just beginning. Glencore Plc, McEwen Mining Inc, Lundin Mining Corp and First Quantum Minerals Ltd are all developing projects.

Central Puerto’s search for copper projects comes amid a broader spending spree that has included power and forestry assets. Forestry and mining are attractive to the company because they create exports priced in US dollars, while power is sold domestically in Argentine pesos, one of the world’s worst-performing currencies, in a heavily regulated market.

Central Puerto is also eyeing Argentina’s budding lithium industry as a supplier of power to explorers and producers, Salvatore said. Argentina’s third lithium project is set to enter production this year, with several more in development.

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by Jonathan Gilbert, James Attwood & Scott Squires, Bloomberg

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