Argentina mining exports to drop by 25% in 2020 because of pandemic -officials

BUENOS AIRES, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Argentina mining exports are expected to dip by 25% this year after activity ground to a halt under one of the strictest coronavirus lockdowns in the world, officials said on Thursday.

Exports from the mining sector, made up of mostly lithium, gold and silver, will total about $2.4 billion in 2020, Mining Secretary Alberto Hensel said. Private sector investment in mineral exploration dwindled to $160 million in 2020, down from $241 million the previous year.

Argentina’s government mandated a strict lockdown on March 20, shutting down most activity, grounding travel and closing its borders. The pandemic hit the mining sector particularly hard, officials said, which relies on workers who often need to travel to reach job sites.

Argentina needs investment dollars to develop its mining sector as the government grapples with a wide gap between its official peso spot rate and the black market rate and shrinking central bank reserves.

“This is a sector that we see as very relevant because from a macroeconomic point of view, Argentina needs to strengthen projects with an export outlet,” Production Minister Matías Kulfas told journalists. “Mining is part of the solution.”

Argentina’s official statistics agency posted earlier on Thursday a 3.4% increase in industrial production in the month of September, the first monthly rise since the pandemic. (Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Grant McCool)