Some learnings and conclusions after Asia Copper Week

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in the 7th edition of Asia Copper Week in Shanghai, which brought together more than 2000 people, about 60 leaders from 100 important companies and dozens of countries. The main executives of mining companies discussed the future of the activity, investments, markets, and environmental issues. I want to highlight a couple of very positive elements to finish in a conclusion.

First: the meeting is organized by Cesco, a Chilean think tank specialized in mining, and the guest of honor, who gave a special greeting, was the Minister of Mining of Chile, Baldo Prokurica. This allows us to know firsthand what is happening in a key economic sector for Chile and discuss issues of interest in a globalized and relevant environment.

Second: the conversation of the main executives focused on the conclusions of a study carried out by Cesco along with the company Spencer Stuart, based on interviews with the executives of copper companies, about what they learned after the supercycle of the copper price, how to manage in a better way the pronounced the ups and downs of the activity. A subject highly relevant to our economy, so dependent on this mineral.

Third: the activity carried out in the main consumer country of copper in the world, China, is linked to another great world copper meeting that takes place in Chile, the main producing country, in April of each year. I am talking about Cesco Week Santiago.

Finally, a reflection on the very different development between China and our country, 40 years after the beginning of the Chinese policy that has transformed the country into a world power.  

In 1993 I joined a delegation from the Ministry of Mining and Prochile to China, which had among its objectives to sell Chilean technology. Beyond the ingenuity of the purpose, we realized that in areas such as smelters, our country was more advanced. Today, 25 years later, China sells us its technology. It is surprising such a radical change in such a short time, explained by the accelerated Chinese development, but much more, by our lack of action.

The size of the Chinese population explains part, but not the whole story. In fact, it was practically the same before the takeoff. The differentiating factor has been the political will to open up to investment and market mechanisms based on a national development strategy.

In our case, having many advances in the period, the setback is evident in key areas which have taken our toll for a deficit of added value in the structure of our exports, and in the difficulty responding to the new challenges of the competitiveness.

Beyond the speeches of all, the inability to think in the long term and to increase our spending on R & D is not accidental. And what is critical: capacity and quality have been lost in the State apparatus, a key factor for an effective articulation with the private sector and thus be able to coordinate actions and resources to face increasingly complex, more global and systemic challenges, impossible to solve only for individual actions. The failure of Maersk’s investment is the best example.

In this regard, it is necessary to highlight initiatives such as the Programa Nacional de Minería Alta Ley, Valor Minero, and Cesco, which assume a responsibility in trying to articulate the sectors, public, private and state agencies, to put the issues on the public agenda of long-term mining development. If this effort is not enough, we will continue with commissions and diagnoses, which will be repeated every four years, while our mining remains the same.

Iván Valenzuela, Director of Cesco