Argentina draws Canadian gold mine firm in $403.6 million project

June 19, 2012 at 4:44 PM
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BUENOS AIRES, June 19 (UPI) -- Argentina has drawn Canada's Yamana Gold Inc. into a $403.6 million mining development project despite concerns over Argentine nationalization of Spanish-controlled Repsol YPF.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner caused an international uproar when she nationalized Spanish oil firm Repsol's local unit without offering compensation. The seizure of YPF assets through a congressional order has soured Argentina's relations with the European Union.

he Obama administration and European Union stripped Argentina of preferential trade status after Argentina's appropriation of Repsol's majority stake in YPF, Argentina's largest energy company.

Current government-led talks over the restructuring of the seized YPF have attracted major international investors, including Mexican billionaire entrepreneur Carlos Slim.

The Canadian move to buy Extorre Gold Mines Ltd. in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $403.6 million goes against concerns over the fate of Repsol YPF, analysts said.

The Ontario gold producer said it planned to acquire Extorre's precious metals mines in Argentina, including the Cerro Moro project in the province of Santa Cruz, as part of the agreement.

Extorre co-chairman Yale Simpson said that Yamana's offer was a welcome outcome for Extorre shareholders in an uncertain economic climate and investor concerns over Repsol YPF.

He said the project would benefit from Yamana's operational experience in Argentina and financial strength to develop its operations on a timely basis.

Although Extorre's board of directors has approved the deal, the company's shareholders are expected to decide Aug. 15 whether to approve the offer. The deal also needs to go to the regulators for approval.

Yamana Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter Marrone cited Extorre Gold Mines' Cerro Moro project as "one of the best undeveloped, high-grade opportunities in the Americas."

Marrone called the deal "a relatively small transaction" because it represents only 3 percent of Yamana's market capitalization. The project ultimately could deliver more than 10 percent of Yamana's total gold equivalent production, he said.

Yamana estimates the Cerro Moro mine has a high-grade, gold-silver deposit with approximately 1.36 million ounces of gold equivalent indicated mineral resources and 1.05 million ounces of gold equivalent inferred mineral resources.

The Argentine state- and provincially owned Yacimientos Mineros de Agua de Dionisio mining company has the title to the deposit.

Yamana also owns the Gualcamayo open-pit gold mine in Argentina's northern San Juan province and has a stake in the Alumbrera copper-and-gold mine in the Catamarca province, about 660 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.

The gold producer also has mineral exploration projects in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

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