Nicholas Baker
Trade Commissioner of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
View from the Top

Australian Miners Set Sights on Mexican Horizons

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 13:13

Q: How would you describe the advantages Mexico has over other mining jurisdictions in Latin America?
A: Australian companies first entered Latin America through Chile. It became a hub for Australian companies in the region. Our goal is to continue motivating these companies to expand to Peru and Mexico. Colombia is also starting to attract the presence of many Australian companies. Mexico has a unique position as it links North and South America. It has the advantage of encompassing geological diversity as Chile mines mostly copper and Colombia coal. Peru also has mines that are in remote areas in the Andes. It can be expensive to open a mine in these areas.
Access to mines in Mexico is much more developed in comparison. Mexico additionally has a booming oil and gas industry that Australia can work in parallel with. The country is opening opportunities for deepwater oil projects and Australia has expertise in this area. BHP Billiton has already signed a historic contract with PEMEX for the Trion farmout. We are hoping that BHP will turn its attention to mining in Mexico as well. The country also has a great deal of talent, with more engineers per capita than many other countries.
Q: How can Mexico benefit from the similarities with the Australian mining industry?
A: Mexico has many similarities with Australia. Geologically they are both very resource-abundant and both share a long history in the mining industry. The difference is that Australia is a large country and the mines are normally located in isolated and remote areas. The necessity to fill in the gaps created by the lack of a workforce in these areas helped turn Australia into a hub for technology in mining. People do not want to live close to the mines as these are often thousands of kilometers away from the main cities. It can also make it really expensive to fix a broken-down machine when the nearest mechanic is far away. To fix the problem, mining companies created software that can predict the life cycle of a machine to help operators better prepare for breakdowns. Australian mines also use autonomous machines and vehicles that can be controlled from the capital city in that state.
We use these tools in Australia because the conditions are so tough. This kind of technology is still not a necessity in Mexico as mines are not as isolated. But there are many areas of opportunity to incorporate these solutions into the life cycle of operations in the country. We also seek to motivate Australian companies to invest in Mexico as there are probably only about a dozen such companies that have done so.
We can also relate to the water management issues that the country faces as Australia is the driest continent in the world. Mining is a thirsty industry and requires a high consumption of this precious resource. We can help companies better recycle water and optimize its use.
Q: What strategies is Austrade using to introduce new solutions to the Mexican mining industry?
A: We are looking for decision-makers in the Mexican community who can advocate for what we are trying to establish here. The beauty of Mexico is that mining conferences can attract these leaders to a single space. We will bring more Australians to these conferences to introduce them to the Mexican market and present them to supply-chain managers. We are continuously organizing networking and B2B meetings.
We are also prioritizing the establishment of local partners. Partnerships are important because they can help guide companies through the regulatory landscape and relationships with communities. We are strategically identifying the needs in the Mexican market, such as cost-reduction, safety and health, that can be met through solutions created by Australian companies. We want to help the country improve productivity through affordable and innovative technology.