"Medium sized mining projects is where the development is occurring in Chile. El Espino (Pucobre) and Santo Domingo are important medium sized projects."
What is Echeverría Izquierdo’s focus in terms of mining, and how important is the mining industry to the company’s overall business?
Echeverría Izquierdo is a holding composed of nine companies, which are involved in different construction areas. Currently, we are operating in Chile and other parts of Latin American with active participation in the mining, pulp and paper, energy and petrochemical industries. In Chile our focus is mining. It is a very big market and we continuously try to find and develop new projects. We have been involved in some of the main mining projects in Chile such as Collahuasi, Quebrada Blanca 2 (QB2) and the Albemarle lithium project. Echeverría Izquierdo is specialized in working at high altitudes, which is a great advantage in Chile because many of the mines are located high up in the Andes mountains.
What specific services does Echeverría Izquierdo provide to the mining industry?
Echeverría Izquierdo is involved in the different stages of construction projects. We work closely with the engineering teams and we develop construction projects and facilities according to their designs. Keeping costs low is key in a competitive market such as ours. We invest in the best construction equipment so as to increase our productivity and efficiency, which is translated into savings for our customers.
It is paramount to find an experienced team that will be able to live and work at high altitudes. Health and safety can sometimes be a challenge for this kind of project. Logistics might also be a challenge.
Does underground mining pose challenges for a construction company such as Echeverría Izquierdo?
Echeverría Izquierdo has the challenge of constructing and erecting complicated equipment on site in the underground environment. Surface construction and underground construction are completely different. Underground construction can often be more complicated as there might be condition and site-access challenges. You can also not use combustion equipment during underground construction and electrical equipment is required. Underground mining is the future of Chile and Echeverría Izquierdo is focused on finding good solutions for the challenges this presents.
Can you elaborate on the size of investments that are currently being made in the market?
Teck is making big investments into its QB2 project, but they are in the minority. There are far more small to medium sized investments being made than big ones. Small investments are not good business for Echeverría Izquierdo because these projects are served by small contractors. Medium sized mining projects is where the development is occurring in Chile. El Espino (Pucobre) and Santo Domingo are important medium sized projects.
What has been Echeverría Izquierdo experience working in the lithium space, and what is your view on the potential for Chile to be a top lithium producing country?
Lithium mining in Chile is a good business and the country’s lithium is high quality and cheap to produce. Construction of a lithium facility is similar to that of a chemical plant. We have to provide solutions that are tailor made for the lithium business. The processing plants for lithium are much smaller compared to copper. There is a significant amount of investment made into the lithium market, which provides great growth opportunities for Echeverría Izquierdo.
Is Echeverría Izquierdo completely focused on the Chilean market or is the company looking to expand into other markets?
Echeverría Izquierdo is a Chilean company and it is mainly focused on this market. Approximately four years ago, the company entered the Peruvian market, where we were mainly involved in projects in the energy sector. Our focus will remain in Chile as it is a huge market with a substantial amount of opportunity. Nonetheless, we will consider expanding into markets where we see great potential.
Do you believe the current political climate will postpone investment decisions?
Mining is a long-term business, but of course there are political issues that are creating uncertainty. This means some investors will want to wait to see what happens. If a project is for 25-30 years it is possible for them to wait two years to have less risk associated with their investment.
What are Echeverría Izquierdo’s objectives and vision moving forward?
Echeverría Izquierdo aims to continue to grow its footprint in the Chilean mining market. We want to get involved in all the major mining projects and want to remain a preferred construction partner in the market. We are continuously looking for opportunities where we can offer solutions to our customers. Echeverría Izquierdo has seen significant growth over the years, and we aim to continue onward.