The President of Peru’s Institute of Mining Engineers addresses the challenges of perception that the mining industry faces.
What changes have you implemented during your mandate as president of the IIMP?
The Peruvian Institute of Mining Engineers is a professional body with a history of more than 70 years and, beyond providing training courses and spreading the industry’s best practices, we must also have a more active role in promoting investment and generating discussions about the main issues affecting the sector. We have restructured the Institute to be able to work more efficiently and one of the areas we are working on strongly is communications.
What should the industry do to improve its relationship with the wider society?
Traditionally, the mining industry only communicates when there is a conflict. The mining sector is perceived as distant, because it is an activity that does not take place in the cities but in the high Andes and there is a great disparity between the urban human development indexes in those in remote areas. This generates high expectations that are difficult to manage. Mining is a formal sector within a wider economy that is predominantly informal, which gives the misleading perception that all mining companies are rich, when mining companies can actually lose a lot of money during the bad years.
What would you like to highlight of the different events organized by IIMP?
Firstly, the link between the Institute and Academia is very important: the Community Relations Congress, for instance, was held at the Agrarian University; the Mining Management Congress took place at the University of Lima, and the National University of San Agustín is hosting PERUMIN this year. For PERUMIN we expect to receive close to 100,000 visitors. The event has two main pillars: on one side, we want to be a political forum where the main issues affecting the industry are discussed (“Competitiveness”). On the other, we have the technical aspect, with the technology exhibition EXTEMIN and with the presentation of technical works (“Sustainability”).
How can the industry handle the efficiency of the operations better when the sector moves again into a high cycle of metal prices?
The mining industry is a price-taker. There is no way we can add new attributes to what we produce to sell it at a higher price, like the automotive industry does, for instance. Thus, there is a permanent effort to cut costs, but another important factor is to identify synergies among projects, to share access, energy and water infrastructure, and eventually even tailings dams or processing plants. The prices have improved, but they are not going back to the levels of the mining boom of a few years ago. In Chile you already have a recent example of this type of collaboration, between Goldcorp and Teck. Looking at Peru, Quellaveco is located in an area that already has significant infrastructure. Equally, you could look at the Cajamarca copperbelt as a group of projects, putting together Michiquillay, Conga, Galeno and even La Granja.
How can the society benefit from the technological developments of the mining industry?
One of the greatest challenges of the mining industry is the efficient movement of materials to reduce the non-productive processes. Global companies such as Rio Tinto and Vale have already developed very efficient systems for iron ore operations that have been applied later in massive transit systems in cities. In Peru, we have universities with a good academic level, but our efforts in research and development are still small. Having said this, we have some positive examples of innovation in Peru: local companies, for instance, have developed specialized equipment for narrow-vein mining.
The mining sector still employs men for the most part. Do you think more women will join the workforce?
There is a global trend to incorporate more women as part of the mining workforce. In Milpo, for instance, where I worked until last year, there was a mandate to increase the participation of women in the workforce. In Brazil, mining operations are closer to the cities, so it is easier to have more women there. In Peru, we have a geographic challenge; we need camps in remote areas with atypical shifts of 14 days working and seven days off. This makes it more difficult for women to join the mining industry, but the trend will continue nevertheless.