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By Juliana Castilla
BUENOS AIRES, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Argentina’s leading presidential candidate Daniel Scioli would seek to increase investment in mining by ensuring tax stability for foreign companies eager to exploit the country’s vast mineral resources, a key campaign advisor said on Tuesday.
Hugo Nielson, head of the Latin American Mining Organization and an advisor to Buenos Aires province Governor Scioli, said policy predictability would attract investment in Argentina’s gold, silver and copper fields. He said Argentina has a law ensuring taxes don’t rise on specific projects, but the law has not always been applied.
“The mining investment law must be ratified to guarantee tax stability,” he said in an interview. “You should not be able to add one single tax to a project once it is approved.”
Scioli is a member of the party of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez, whose economic controls have scared off foreign investment. He has been leading the opinion polls ahead of the Oct. 25 presidential vote.
He has pledged to gradually change some policies while retaining the advances in social welfare made by Fernandez during her eight years in power.
Argentina taxed mining projects at a rate of 38 percent in 2013, the latest year for which data was available from the local CAEM mining industry chamber. That rate is much higher than the 20.4 percent rate in Chile and 12 percent in Peru.
“Mining could attract investment immediately because there are about 10 projects ready to go but just waiting for Argentina to send the right signal,” Nielson said.
He mentioned Brazilian company Vale, which pulled out of a potassium mining project in 2012 after failing to get tax concessions from the Argentine government. The company had asked for tax breaks as global potash prices dropped, and to help ease soaring costs it attributed to high inflation and the controlled exchange rate in Argentina.
Analysts say consumer prices are rising at close to 30 percent. Scioli has vowed to cut inflation to single digits by the end of his first term. Fernandez is barred from running for a third term in October.
Nielson, who analyzes mining at Scioli’s DAR (Desarollo Argentina) think-tank, said luring investment would be a top priority for the governor, who got 38 percent of the Aug. 9 open primary vote versus Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires whose coalition captured 30 percent.
Nielsen said Scioli would bring provincial governments together to ensure that local regulations do not discourage mining projects that are environmentally sound. (Editing by David Gregorio)