Pan American Silver Monday celebrated the official inauguration of its Manatial Espejo silver and gold mine in the southern province of Santa Cruz, Argentina.

However, the guest of honor, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner apparently cancelled her appearance at the last minute, the internet blog inco kola news reported.

Nevertheless, Argentina's ministers of planning and mining, the governor of the province of Santa Cruz and the Canadian ambassador to Argentina all participated in the celebration.

Manatial Espejo poured its first silver and gold dore in late December and produced 415,000 ounces of silver and more than 7,000 ounces of gold during the first two months of this year. It is expected to produce 4.3 million ounces of silver and 60,000 ounces of gold in 2009 and have a 10-year mine life.

Pan American Silver President and CEO Geoff Burns said, Building Manatial Espejo was not an easy task. Extreme climatic conditions and acute cost inflation added six month to the schedule and an additional $40 million to the final price tag.

Delay caused by slow equipment deliveries, lower contractor productivity, and extreme seasonal wind conditions last year, increased Manatial Espejo's total capex by $40 million over the previous estimate of $185.3 million.

We are extremely excited about Manatial Espejo's future and look forward to a long and mutually prosperous affiliation with the people of Santa Cruz and Argentina, he added. Furthermore, I am optimistic that Pan American will be able to significantly expand our operations in Argentina as we make use of our experiences in building Manatial Espejo and of the positive relations we have established with the Argentine authorities.

In August 2008, the World Bank noted that Argentina's mining sector was booming as a result of high commodity prices, competitive exchange rates, sector liberalization, and streamlining of federal and provincial administration procedures.