BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -A silver mine owned by Canada’s Pan American Silver in Argentina was back in limbo on Monday after the provincial government repealed a mining law approved last week.
“We have decided to repeal the law and promote a plebiscite at the provincial level to listen to all the voices of the people,” Chubut Governor Mariano Arcioni wrote on Twitter on Monday.
Chubut province, in Argentina’s southern Patagonian region, repealed the law after days of violent protests by local communities against the bill. The law would have allowed open-pit mining in two areas including where Canadian miner Pan American Silver’s large Navidad silver project is based.
After approval of the law last week, government buildings in provincial capital Rawson were set on fire, roadblocks erected and clashes erupted in the streets.
The decision triggered an angry reaction from the mining sector.
“When violence wins, the loser is Argentina,” said a trade association for mining companies.
“It looks like for some groups ‘anything goes,’ like burning down public buildings, destruction, threats…it’s all allowed without the legal consequences that would be in place for any other citizens.”
Pan America’s Navidad has been on hold since 2013 when it ran afoul of provincial rules banning the use of cyanide in open-pit mining. Locals and environmental organizations oppose the exploitation of silver and lead due to the potential for contamination.
Pan American Silver did not reply to a request for comment.
Argentina, one of the world’s top 10 silver producers according to the U.S. Geological Survey, is looking to expand mining production to bolster its embattled economy.
(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski and Agutin Geist; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Cynthia Osterman)