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Rob McEwen seeks $100m for Argentina copper mine as Milei boosts prospects

Rob McEwen

Rob McEwen

31st January 2024

By: Bloomberg

  

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Canadian entrepreneur Rob McEwen is in talks to raise about $100-million for a copper project in Argentina, at a time when miners are betting that deregulation by the new government of Javier Milei will boost prospects for the industry.

His closely-held firm, McEwen Copper, is speaking with existing holders — which include automaker Stellantis and a Rio Tinto Group venture — as well as prospective new investors, he said in an interview. The idea is to secure fresh funds within six months for feasibility and engineering work. Longer-term options include partnering with a major mining company.

“We’re socializing the concept,” McEwen said Monday. “Just getting in front of a lot of people who finance large projects, not only for our immediate needs but for the longer term.”

The industry veteran who founded Goldcorp is hoping President Milei’s efforts to free up Argentina’s tightly controlled economy will help unlock vast copper deposits in San Juan province. That’s where McEwen wants to build the $2.5-billion Los Azules mine that would start up toward the end of the decade, when demand for the wiring metal is expected to accelerate in the shift away from fossil fuels.

Milei, a libertarian who took office on Dec. 10, wants to cut red tape as well as do away with customs and capital restrictions. If he can win over congressional opposition, such changes would reduce risks for investors, who remain optimistic yet cautious, McEwen said. The challenge for Milei is to move swiftly because metal markets are cyclical and financing windows can shut quickly, he said.

Los Azules isn’t waiting around for change. It already has 21 drill rigs on site, and it’s working on a renewable-energy supply deal from YPF Luz and a leaching method that would help it to be carbon neutral. It hopes to obtain an environmental permit this year, have a feasibility study ready in early 2025 and do pre-construction work from 2026, Michael Meding, who heads McEwen Copper, said in the same interview.

McEwen’s copper unit had planned to go public, but it’s now focusing on raising money privately since market conditions aren’t ripe for an IPO, McEwen said. He and Meding recognized that the investment climate for mining generally is tough, but said that tax incentives proposed for large Argentine infrastructure projects in Milei’s signature legislation could help lure partners.

“We think that we would classify as a large-scale infrastructure project and that would generate additional taxation stability,” Meding said. “And that would be very helpful in future financing discussions with the international community.”

Edited by Bloomberg

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