Donovan Sánchez
Business Director
SGS Minerals Services
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View from the Top

Breaking Inertia Through New Processes, Solutions

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 13:20

Q: What role does the Mexican mining industry play in your international business strategy?
A: Mining represents a large portion of our business in Mexico. We offer the industry a wide array of services from geochemistry to geometallurgy. SGS specializes in providing detailed ore analysis so that operators can make better decisions about their production strategies. But the lack of exploration is impacting our business and at the same time condemning the future of the industry and its development. Sadly, when prices drop, exploration is often the first to suffer. We remain cautious about the rise of the industry as we believe that some analysts are being more wishful than realistic about its outlook.
Q: What are the main issues companies face in terms of mineral analysis and how do you help them?
A: The biggest challenge companies face at the moment is their restricted budget. Exploration departments often have very small budgets to complete studies. Based on their objectives and goals, we meet their needs by adapting our services to their limited capital. We can also help facilitate and optimize the process of commercialization to help them reduce costs. Another issue is that not enough companies know that we have a high-end laboratory in the country and many shipping samples to other countries, which can be expensive. Our local knowledge is an additional advantage.
Q: What challenges do operators face when it comes to commercialization and trade?
A: Trade and commercialization are particularly tricky as one bad sample can put at risk an entire lot or shipment of concentrates. We have to make sure that we take representative samples of the materials according to the applicable international norms. This is important since our clients need to be sure that the material they are exporting complies with the local regulations in each country regarding contaminant levels. They also need assurances that they are below the limitations that a smelter might have to treat certain materials. If a material is not within the specification it could be rejected, wasting time and money. Since the concentrates produced in Mexico are usually considered complex materials, requiring blending to reach an acceptable quality, we also have to perform analysis during the blending process to make sure that the blend is according to the clients’ expectations, keeping all the elements within acceptable limits.
Each load is different as the particle size and type of material can vary greatly so we have to be extra cautious with every client. We normally take samples at ports or warehouses near them such as at Manzanillo when the vessels are ready to load the material prior to it leaving the country or as soon as possible once the material is discharged from the vessel.
Q: How do you help companies with traditional mindsets overcome their resistance to change?
A: Mining companies can be quite traditional as it is an old industry. Certain operators may fear straying from processes that have been giving them decent results for decades. But we strive to show them that there is a new world of possibilities and efficiency that can be achieved through new processes. It also helps that regulators are starting to direct companies in the right way by incentivizing new models. Some operators are quite up to date on the newest technology and trends in the industry.
We also believe that the best way to foment change in the industry is by setting the example. By overcoming internal resistance to new processes, we can successfully show others how to do this as well. We have worked with companies and helped them install onsite laboratories in their mines. We make sure to only install the equipment they need to optimize costs. We seek to be well-positioned in the country, not just in mining but across a variety of industries. SGS is showing companies that we are much more than just service providers; we can be business partners.