35 years of Cesco

In august, mining month, Cesco celebrated its 35th anniversary. We were born in the mid-1980s, in difficult times for Chile, in the midst of a set of forces that struggled to restore democratic normality. In those years, there was an important discussion about the future role of mining as a vehicle for growth for Chile. Attracted by exceptional geology and the favorable conditions of the mining legislation of the military regime, an intense exploration activity developed in our territory that confirmed the quality and potential of the mining resource. 

The crossroads at the time was whether the country should develop such reserves or “save” them, regulating supply, waiting for higher prices in the future, a position that meant monopoly power in the markets and a low threat of copper substitution. Cesco’s position was clear: the country needed to grow and to expand its mining production, hand in hand with Codelco’s investment and private mining. 

More than three decades after that discussion, what has happened shows that Chile made the right decision. The impressive growth in copper investment and production from 1.5 million tons of fine copper in just over ten years was the material base that enabled a set of other developments that changed the country’s face.

Today the mining sector is once again facing a complex decision. After a long period of high prices, with significant increases in production, today mining faces the need to update its value proposition, considering that it is no longer possible to grow at historical rates. With a lot of effort and high investment, Chile’s copper production will hardly exceed 6 million tons per year, so it must move forward in increasing the value per ton of copper produced. At the same time, it is necessary to find spaces of mutual benefit to build stable agreements to create value for businesses, communities and the state, taking care of the environment and their ecosystems. 

This challenge is global, and countries that prepare and lead this transition will capture most of the social value that mining can generate by operating under a renewed paradigm. 21st century mining is one that not only refers to offering work and “zero damage”, but must carry out an active search for quality and innovation-capable jobs that brings us closer to the developments of artificial intelligence, electromobility and other Similar. This should be done in a context of social inclusion, environmental care and climate change adaptation and mitigation, among other elements. An imperative to lead this transition is to actively participate in technological change. Followers will have to strive not to be left out of the new paradigm and only settle for a fraction of the opportunities and the value that others are creating and capturing.

The challenge does not refer to whether have less or more mining, a sustainable world needs more mining.  The challenge is not easy, and cannot be met with the isolated effort of just one mining company, no matter how important. This is a demand for “team Chile” as a whole.  Once and for all we require a long-term look with the state with a clear, coherent and agile guiding role that combine industry and civil society to co-construct a mining policy for the country.  To commemorate our 35-year history, we wanted to hear the voice of political leaders and the invitation was to answer the question ¿What does Chile want from its mining? from this discussion, we could see that there is ample space for the political world to play a role in the challenge described. Those who participated in this debate agreed, albeit with important nuances, that mining is a crucial sector for the country’s development. But it is not enough to declare that mining is important, what is relevant is to generate political, social, regulatory conditions so that the miner can effectively develop and contribute harmoniously to the development of Chile. 

 This requires long-term vision, strategy and leadership. It is in these respects that we still have a long way to go.  The tight-minded complacencies and defenses of mining sectors do nothing to generate an environment of trust. Nor do they help positions that tend to see mining as the bad guy in the film, denying the country any input, on the contrary, a political society and class that understands the importance and complexity of mining is needed. 

From Cesco we call on all those interested in the development of sustainable mining for Chile, to open the way to a serious discussion by listening with respect and empathy to the critical positions, the only possible way to successfully overcome the challenge we face today. It is our commitment to be a meeting place for this conversation to happen.