Experts discuss perspectives for a sustainable development of mining in the central zone of the country

With only 3% of the mining resources of the Metropolitan Region (RM) and the Valparaíso Region, the Chilean economy could grow by 0.75 percentage points per year. "Great economic potential, great controversy," was the phrase that marked the day.

The significant drop in production, employment and mining investment projects that has led to the decline in the price of copper and its respective impact on the slowdown of the Chilean economy was the scenario that this morning convened a conversation around one of the main themes of the development of the Metropolitan and Valparaíso regions, and also the rest of the country, in the coming years: the mining potential of the Central Zone and its possible economic, environmental and territorial impacts.

The seminar entitled “Sustainable development of mining in the Central Zone: a challenge for Chile”, convened by Alianza Valor Minero along with the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development of the Diego Portales University (UDP), was attended by the Minister of Mining, Ms. Aurora Williams, and invited a panel composed of the President of SONAMI, Diego Hernández; the economist of the Center for Public Studies, Raphael Bergoeing; the Director of the Master of Public Policy at UDP, Claudia Sanhueza,; The Coordinator of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development of the UDP, Claudio Huepe; and the Executive President of Alianza Valor Minero, Álvaro García, to discuss the prospects for a future development of the industry in the Metropolitan and Valparaiso region.

“Reactivating the mining sector is key to growing again and that means developing areas of high mining potential that are no longer necessarily in the north of the country. Now, this development will not be possible if we do not take on the challenges of sustainability and inclusion. And that is the conversation we wanted to have today. A long-term conversation, but we must have it right now", said the President of Valor Minero.

 “If Chile develops copper in the Central Zone it does not matter for an external mining company, but it does affect us as a country because we can lose the opportunity to develop the potential for the benefit of us”, added the President of Sonami.

About the studies

In order to feed into the discussion, two studies elaborated by Valor Minero were presenetd: “Development of the mining sector in Chile and its macroeconomic consequences” by the economist Juan Pablo Medina (Fiscal Advisory Council, Ministry of Finance) which presents the impact of the future mining production in the central zone on the indicators such as GDP, investments, tax revenue or employment; and the study “Challenges for the future development of mining in the Central Zone” which deals with the environmental, social and productive issues associated with the activity.

 According to Medina´s study, the regions of Valparaíso and Metropolitana, particularly the Río Blanco – Los Bronces district, holds 10% of the world’s copper reserves (200 MT). He argues that using less than 3% of the area's resources, the Chilean economy could grow an additional 0.75 points a year.

Translating the figure into the 2016′ scenario, this would have meant a 50% increase in the GDP growth rate. "And in terms of tax revenue, for those eight years it means an average of increase of 2% of GDP with higher incomes. That is 2.9 billion dollars with which we could build 14 Hospitals of Antofagasta per year”, Medina said.

“It has great potential, but with great complexity because of its location in the most populated area of the country, which makes us responsible for doing things right. We must ask ourselves, what does it mean to expand mining in the Central Zone? We have to fully understand the situation and be aware of every component in it”, García said.

According to the Valor Minero’s study, the Metropolitan and Valparaíso regions present important productive, social and environmental challenges. In only eight years they lost between 20% and 30% of their glacier mass and climate change has aggravated drought (annual water deficit of -27.4 m3/s in the Valparaíso and -35.6 m3/s in the Metropolitan Region) and exacerbated competition for available water.

“A mining that is sustainable, innovative, with greater human capita, respectuful of the communities and the environmen is the mining that society demands. That is the view we share with Alianza ValorMinero”, stated Minister Williams.

“It is good to have copper. The thing is how do we make it productive for the rest of the economy and the communities”, added Claudia Sanhueza.

On the necessity of generating agreements

With regard to the sustainable development of this potential, experts stressed the importance of early involvement of multiple actors in decision-making that affect the development of territories, such as communities and social leaders, the public sector, technology centers, NGOs, experts and other productive sectors. “These issues cannot be discussed between the mining company and the government. Today there are many more actors involved; many more stakeholders who have to participate in this discussion, so that when decisions are taken there is a consensus”, Diego Hernández indicated.

Finally, the member of the National Productivity Commission, Raphael Bergoeing, said that it is key to make an effort to move towards an inclusive dialogue of all actors. In this respect, he emphasized the importance of having institutionalized instances of territorial dialogue that integrate dispute resolution. “We as the National Commission for Productivity believe it is very important to implement a conflict resolution system as the one Valor Minero promotes”, concluded.

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