On Monday, October 24, the provincial government reported for the second time the discovery of a gold and copper deposit in a mountainous sector of the Alto Valle Calchaquí. Under the title “Yacones III file 24387/20”, the Salta Mining Judge, María Victoria Mosmann, reported that the company Yacones SRL declared “the discovery of a scattered gold and copper deposit located in the department of Cachi”. The document then mentions the satellite points – among them the one that corresponds to the site of the demonstration – and reports that the 2,989 hectares affected are in a property whose registered owner is the daughter of the current provincial senator for Cachi, Walter Wayar. The document bears the signature of the secretary of the court, María Alejandra Loutayf.
“I was surprised by the news. I am making inquiries because no one informed me of the entry of people from outside my property to do exploration,” Andrea Wayar told Salta 12. “I still can’t find what property they’re talking about. It seems to me that there is an error, because the cadastre is a house in the town of Cachi that is my property, ”she clarified during the interview conducted by this medium.
The Provincial Mining Court did not report it, but the registration that is declared in the edict bears the number 403. Indeed, Salta 12 confirmed that there are two cadastres with that numbering. One is owned by the daughter of the senator from Cachi. It does not have an extension of almost three thousand hectares but a little more than two thousand square meters and appears in his name since 2010. It is an old restored house on one of the corners of the main square of Cachi. It belonged to Adela Tedín. Between 1995 and 1998 there was a legal dispute between the heirs of that family and the Wayar for possession of the cadastre. Between 2008 and 2010 Walter Raúl Wayar was the owner of that domain.
The second cadastre 403, appears to the west of the summits of the Nevado Libertador General San Martín or Nevado de Cachi. According to public data, available at the General Directorate of Real Estate in Salta, it is a license plate declared with the same number but in another department. Due to its extension (almost 138 thousand hectares) it covers the western part of Cachi and a good part of neighboring Molinos. It was acquired in July 1979 by Campo Rosario Sociedad en Comandita por Acciones for the sum of $200,000,000 (Pesos Law 18,188, $20,000 today). Since October 2014, the SCA has changed its name. It is currently Finca Luracatao S.A. By satellite points, the manifestation of the gold and copper mine carried out by Yacones SRL and published in the Official Gazette of Salta, is located north of that license plate, more precisely at the source of the Luracatao River. The upper basin of the river is made up of the western slopes and snow-capped peaks of the Nevado de Cachi and Palermo. Also the eastern slopes of Cerro Oire Grande and Morteritos.
The novelty of the discovery went viral on digital portals and social networks. Each space on the network gave a different title to the official version of the Salteño government, and on social networks, the Salteños reproduced or amplified those same versions. However, a particular digital portal (FM Professional) added that the deposit would be close to being exploited. The news reached the Diaguita Calchaquí communities, who were concerned about the harmful effects of gold extraction.
Information from the Official Gazette of Salta does not ensure that the daughter of the provincial senator for Cachi is part of the Yacones SRL company. The last partner meeting record in that same publication dates from July 2020 and mentions corporate changes made in 2018 and 2020. According to the last commercial notice of July 2020, its regular managers would still be Agustín Miguel and Simón Pérez Alsina. Since September 2018, the SRL declares to be authorized for agricultural and mining activities. The latter can be exploration, exploitation of deposits, or mining services. The information available on search engines shows data only on Simón Perez Alsina: he is treasurer in the current management of the Salta Mining Chamber and trustee in Pacific Rim Mining Corporation. The Salta Bar Association reports that he is part of the Perez Alsina & Frezze Durand buffet.
Yacones SRL recently appears as the holder of several mining cadastres in the Cachi departments (municipality of the same name) and the Andes (San Antonio de Los Cobres municipality). The data comes from the latest update of mining polygons in the province, available in IDESA (Spatial Data Infrastructure of Salta). The information dates from October 4 of this year. In that file, the limited liability company is the owner of the mining registry where the scattered gold and copper deposits are located, reported to doctors Mosmann and Loutayf. The area of Yacones III does correspond to the 2,989 hectares declared and informed by the Official Gazette. By the coordinates of the edict, the disseminated deposit is located northwest of the Cachi department and corresponds to the registered owner Finca Luracatao S.A.
The disseminated deposit they reported contains errors. Nevertheless the declared demonstration is effectively in a key sector for that micro-basin in the Alto Valle Calchaquí that supplies many peasants and native communities in the department of Molinos.
The appearances of gold following the Luracatao River are known among the residents. The Yacones SRL deposit is located on an old mule herding route that traveled in the 19th and 20th centuries to the English borate mines in Chile. It was the most important commercial circuit in the Calchaquí Valleys and for centuries a source of wealth for many families from Salta.
The province of Salta practically quadrupled its mining exports in 2021 and not thanks to lithium, but to gold. The precious metal is, symbolically, the last store of value. The data arises when exploring the SIAMCAM, Open Information System for the Community on Mining Activity in Argentina of the National Ministry of Economy.
Last year, mining exports from the province were close to 228 million dollars, an account that in round numbers was led by gold ($167 million), followed far behind by borates ($38 million) and lithium ($21 million). In 2020, the year the coronavirus pandemic began, that metal (Au by its chemical nomenclature) ranked second: borates first (28 million dollars), gold later (17 million dollars) and lithium third (16 million dollars). Dollars). At least since 1998 – the year in which the series of exports from Salta began in the SIACAM – gold does not appear on the list of minerals exported from the province.
The only gold mine that extracts the ore in Salta is Lindero, operated by Mansfield Minera SA of the Canadian company Fortuna Silver Mines Inc. It is located in Salar de Arizaro, near the border between the department of Los Andes and the province of Catamarca.. The company owns one hundred percent of the project. According to the Salta government press, on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, the first gold spill from the mine took place, “a milestone for Argentine mining” with 728 ounces of gold. On its website, Fortuna Silver reports that in 2021 the mine produced 104,161 ounces.
Could the escalation in recent decades and the recent extraction of the precious metal in the province of Salta by a company with foreign capital generate a gold rush in the province? According to the Official Gazette, the demonstrations of gold and copper mines have not been the majority in recent years. In 2022, in addition to Yacones III, Lucrecia I appears in Salar de Arizaro, Tolar Grande municipality in Los Andes department. In 2019, several statements by Corrientes Argentina SA appeared for gold deposits located within the same municipality in Los Andes.
The native communities of Cachi know of geologists who worked until last year in the area of the mining concessions where Yacones SRL is located. Although they did not express themselves formally, they are evaluating with the communities of Luracatao and Molinos collective actions to be taken. A gold deposit to the west of the Nevado de Cachi would have a direct environmental impact on the entire population that, in Molinos, builds their subsistence routines around crystal clear water springs.