Property and Title in Argentina
The laws, procedures and terminology regarding mineral title in Argentina differ considerably from those in the United States and in Canada. Mineral rights in Argentina are separate from surface ownership and are owned by the federal government but are administered by the provinces. The following summarizes some of the Argentinean mining law terminology in order to aid in understanding Marifil's land holdings in Argentina.
Cateo: A cateo is an exploration concession which does not permit mining but gives the owner a preferential right to explore the cateo area for minerals and to apply for a mining concession within the same area. Cateos are measured in 500 ha unit areas and cannot exceed 20 units (10,000 ha). No person may hold more than 400 units in a single province. The term of a cateo is based on its area: 150 days for the first unit (500 ha) and an additional 50 days for each unit thereafter. After a period of 300 days, 50% of the area over four units (2,000 ha) must be dropped. At 700 days, 50% of the area remaining must be dropped. Time extensions may be granted to allow for bad weather, difficult access, etc. Cateos are identified by a file number or "expediente" number. Cateos are granted by the following process:
- Application for a cateo covering a designated area. The application must describe a minimum work program for exploration;
- Approval by the province and formal placement on the official map or graphic register;
- Publication in the provincial official bulletin;
- A period following publication for third parties to oppose the claim; and
- Granting of the cateo.
The length of this process varies depending on the province, and commonly takes up to two years. Accordingly, cateo status is divided into those that are in the application process and those that have been awarded. If two companies apply for cateos on the same land, the first to apply has the superior right. During the application period, the first applicant has rights to any mineral discoveries made by third parties in the cateo without its prior consent. While it is theoretically possible for a junior applicant to be awarded a cateo, because applications can be denied, the Corporation knows of no instances where this has happened.
Applicants for cateos may be allowed to explore on the land pending formal award of the cateo, with the approval of the surface owner of the land. The time periods after which the owner of a cateo must reduce the quantity of land held does not begin to run until 30 days after a cateo is formally awarded.
A canon fee, or tax, of Pesos$400 per unit must be paid upon application for the cateo.
Mina: To convert an exploration concession (or cateo) to a mining concession, some or all of the area of a cateo must be converted to a "mina". Minas are mining concessions which permit mining on a commercial basis. The area of a mina is measured in "pertenencias".
Each mina may consist of two or more pertenencias. "Common pertenencias" are six ha and "disseminated pertenencias" are 100 ha (relating to disseminated deposits of metals rather than discrete veins). The mining authority may determine the number of pertenencias required to cover the geologic extent of the mineral deposit in question.
Once granted, minas have an indefinite term assuming exploration development or mining is in progress. An annual canon fee of Peso$80 per common pertenencia and Peso$800 per disseminated pertenencia is payable to the province.
Minas are obtained by the following process:
- Declaration of manifestation of discovery in which a point within a cateo is nominated as a discovery point. The manifestation of discovery is used as a basis for location of pertenencias of the sizes described above. Manifestations of discovery do not have a definite area until pertenencias are proposed. Within a period following designation of a manifestation of discovery, the claimant may do further exploration, if necessary, to determine the size and shape of the mineral body.
- Survey ("mensura") of the mina. Following a publication and opposition period and approval by the province, a formal survey of the pertenencias (together forming the mina) is completed before the granting of a mina. The status of a surveyed mina provides the highest degree of mineral land tenure and rights in Argentina.
- Estaca Minas: These are six- ha extensions to existing surveyed minas that were granted under previous versions of the mining code. Estaca minas are equivalent to minas. New Estaca minas were eliminated from the mining code in August 1996.
All mineral rights described above are considered forms of real property and can be sold, leased or assigned to third parties on a commercial basis. Cateos and minas can be forfeited if minimum work requirements are not performed or if annual payments are not made.
Generally, notice and an opportunity to cure defaults is provided to the owner of such rights. Grants of mining rights, including water rights, are subject to the rights of prior users. Further, the mining code contains environmental and safety provisions administered by the provinces. Prior to conducting operations, miners must submit an environmental impact report to the provincial government describing the proposed operation and the methods to be used to prevent undue environmental damage. The environmental impact report must be updated bi-annually, with a report on the results of the protection measures taken. If protection measures are deemed inadequate, additional environmental protection may be required. Mine operators are liable for environmental damage. Violators of environmental standards may be caused to shut down mining operations.