Francisco Perez, the governor of the province of Mendoza in Argentina, says there is a lot more to his corner of the country than the wine production that it is famed for. He came to London at the end of June to try to attract investors to other industries prevalent in the province, including mining, gourmet food production, shale gas, oil and energy.

Mendoza is one of the wealthiest provinces of Argentina, with a population of 1.74 million people and covering an area of 148,827 square kilometres, a similar size to the state of Georgia in the US. Between 2003 and 2011, the province's economy grew by 8.3% annually, and its GDP stands at $14.48bn. The provincial unemployment rate stands at 4.7%. Its capital is Mendoza City, a metropolitan area with 1 million inhabitants. This stands against a backdrop in which Argentina defaulted upon its payments to creditors in late July.


Wine sellers

Mendoza has about 330 days of blue skies and sunshine per year, making it ideal for wine production. It is an arid, desert-like region, sitting at the foot of the Andes mountains on the Argentina-Chile border. Glacial waters from the mountain range irrigate a vast network of vineyards, transforming it into one huge productive oasis. The first vineyards in Mendoza were cultivated in the late 16th Century.

“Obviously, wine is very important to Mendoza and Argentina,” says Mr Perez. “However, we are carrying out trade missions to a number of important cities around the world – including Taipei, Mexico City and Tokyo – because we want to promote the other opportunities that exist in our wonderful province.”

He adds that the province’s government is considering opening up a representative office in London to meet potential investors and tourists from Europe.

Mendoza has a strategic location within South America: 66% of goods transported by land from the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela) to Pacific ports pass through the Cristo Redentor pass in the Andean mountains. There is a current traffic flow of 1300 lorries per day, carrying about 4.6 million tonnes a year. “Our vision is to position Mendoza as the Mercosur logistics capital,” says Mr Perez. “We want to put the province at the heart of commerce in the region.”

The province has eight universities (two of them are national, public and free of charge), seven university institutes, 74 higher education institutes and more than 2700 schools (elementary, middle and high schools). After Buenos Aires, Mendoza is the province with the highest number of private universities in Argentina.

Natural resources

Mendoza is ranked the fourth most important province in Argentina in terms of the extraction of conventional oil and gas. The activity is carried out in the Neuquén and Cuyo basins, which have a total of 86 exploration areas. Reserves of potassium, gypsum, silicon, gold, iron, quartz, barite, manganese, zinc, bentonite and talc are found in the soil and subsoil.

“The province’s abundant natural resources are why Mendoza is considered an energy generation hub,” says Mr Perez. Mendoza has 12 hydroelectric power plants and three thermal electric plants with 1410 megawatts of installed capacity.

In June, YPF, the Argentine oil producer, discovered 'tight gas' in the Paso de las Bardas Norte exploration well in the province, with a potential 25 million barrels of recoverable resources. A US Department of Energy report has shown that Argentina has more natural gas trapped in shale rock than all of Europe, a 22-trillion-cubic-metre bounty that could transform the outlook for Western hemisphere supply.