MINING: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM, A COLUMN BY ALEJANDRA WOOD

Every year at the beginning of April, Cesco Week Santiago is held, bringing together the main players in the global mining industry around copper. This encounter is an excellent barometer for its state of mind, as well as of the benefits it encounters in the short and medium-terms.

The taste left by this version of a special, interesting stage. The hardest moments of the end of the super cycle seem to have been left behind, and the environment that dominates today is of a “cautious optimism”. This feeling is based on forecasts for a solid demand for copper and other metals in the mid-term due to the arrival of electromobility, renewable energies, a growing urbanization and the strong increase of middle class globally. This, compared to a low supply due to multiple causes: a lower exploration activity in the previous years, activities becoming more expensive, with low Discovery rates. Likewise, few projects under development, none of them pointing at adding new throughput volumes to market. Even though Latin America and Chile continue to be the region with the highest number of project, it is required and ninety per cent of the global project portfolio is executed in order to meet the gap in supply, which is unlikely to happen due to restrictions being faced by the mining business.

During this period companies have been fully involved in improving their competitiveness in terms of costs and throughput hand in hand with new technologies: data analytics, internet of things, operation of autonomous machines, digital supply chain, remote operation centers, among others. These are finally arriving the industry to stay and enable new throughput leaps, increasing safety and potentially impacting on mining work culture. It is estimated that, in little more than a decade 2/3 of the sectoral labor force will work only with data.

Mining does not only make the most of the global technology revolution that triggered the boom of renewable energies and electrification of our economies, but is also called for a being the protagonist of this revolution particularly in the countries it operates. From this association between mining, technology and innovation not only a more productive industry must arise, but also a more diverse one in terms of products and that mitigates, compensates and hopefully eliminates its risks and negative externalities.

From this crossover it must arise a mining capable of expanding the positive effects of its presence in the countries and territories it operates. In short, a more productive, safe and environmentally respectful mining that is also closer and more involved in its context, more transparent, and hence, less reactive and more integrating of overall development strategies from the producing countries and consumers of our products. More than ever, this gives us the possibility of a story set in the future, less associated with excavation and extraction tasks and more related to global sustainable development, the defeat of poverty, pollution and climate change.

Alejandra Wood

Executive Director from the Center for Copper & Mining Studies (CESCO)