Breaking point between old and new mining

For more than three decades, CESCO has persevered in convoking our country to fully assume its mining nature and take better advantage of the opportunities offered by our privileged wealth.

It is curious that despite the enormous gravitation of copper mining – recognized by all – in investment, growth, exports, contributions to the treasury, in regions, in employment and technological adaptation; reflection on the mining sector is scarce, basically centered in Codelco. In general terms, it seems solved with an unalterable paradigm since the golden decade of the 90s of defining the increase in production as the main objective.

The mining policy of the next 30 years, the minimum horizon of this activity, seems not to be an issue, apparently resolving itself with a “cut and paste” of what happened in the recent past. However, today we undoubtedly face a breaking point between the “old” mining based on mega high-grade deposits and the “new” one, which demands greater productivity and innovation. There is a great opportunity as a country, based on all the accumulated experience and knowledge, to successfully pass to a knowledge mining. Clearly, it is not easy, but there is no alternative.

Everyone knows, intuit, guess that it is practically impossible to repeat what happened in the past, which should focus the sector and the country as a whole in a ceaseless search of the new sources of growth and development of the sector. The challenge of the future is to produce copper with competitive costs, in environmental conditions validated by the community and managing to radiate knowledge and a growing added value to other productive sectors.

Unlike other periods, the demand for copper seems more assured due to the greater use of electricity and renewable energies. Its integration with solar energy and lithium – very abundant elements in our country – it also gives us the opportunity to get involved as a country in those markets.

Sooner than later the transparency and licensing requirements to operate are forcing companies to rethink their models of linking with the environment and also to design systems to supply the markets in a responsible manner. If we also add the impact of automation and the changes that digitization implies for the management and increase of productivity, together with the consequent need to have diverse human teams essential for innovation, it is evident that the sector is facing a new panorama.

From the political point of view, a real commitment of the State is a necessary condition to summon the different actors to design the necessary public policies, reinforcing and strengthening the mining institutionality, creating and supporting the public-private alliances coherent with the objectives that are defined, with a  sense of state policy and with long-term horizons. Copper in Chile is controlled by no more than 5 companies, which should make it easier to work on agreed long-term visions. We invite the government, companies and civil society to discuss and generate mining policies for the next 30 years, based on three questions:

  1. How do we create sustainable conditions to develop mining projects in the Central Zone of Chile (where the largest copper reserves are found) that support the great projects of the future and which face much more complex environmental and community challenges than the North of the country?
  2. How do we achieve that mining policies are the result of a discussion that commits consensually to mining companies under the unavoidable direction of the State as an expression of the interests of all Chileans?
  3. What is the path and what are the initiatives to fully assume this new stage of mining that requires greater knowledge, technological development, care for the environment and sustainable traceable products that allow us to freely access markets?