Jaime Andrés Cruz Russek
Chihuahua Mining Cluster
View from the Top

Developing Mining Competitiveness and Growth in Chihuahua

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 12:11

Q: What are the major challenges that CLUMIN has faced since its creation, and what has the cluster focused on so far?

A: CLUMIN was created in 2013 as an initiative of mining companies to promote local sourcing of products and services with initial funding from companies operating in Chihuahua. The main challenge was to get started but we have been very successful at attracting members across the entire state. At the closing of the first year, we had 52 members, of which only nine were mining companies with the rest being suppliers. Even though we maintain a healthy independence from the government, we work very closely with federal and state authorities since we are all aware that we need to work together to promote the development of the mining industry, which is extremely important for the economy of Chihuahua. One of our main aims is to make mining companies and their suppliers feel at home while attracting new investment and new mining companies. Only through doing this can we tap into the full mining potential of the state. Additionally, we aim to work with local governments to develop a strong local supplier base and create incentives for mining operations in Mexico.

Q: What initiatives are you looking to implement to further develop the cluster?

A: We want to convince more local suppliers to join the cluster. To do so, we plan to organize training sessions so that suppliers can understand what the mining industry demands in terms of safety, quality, and services before they meet with the mining companies. Having a strong local base will also improve the ease of doing business in the industry. One of our other goals is to change the outdated concept that the general population has of mining. The mining industry has not done a good job in conveying its image worldwide. The general public still believes that mining companies are environmental menaces that do not care about safety and do little for the local communities. However, we want to inform the public that the reality of the mining industry is different these days by letting the local press visit the mines and see what mining operations really look like. Furthermore, doing business in Mexico must be simple and must provide certainty through rule of law. CLUMIN needs to make sure that the environment, the communities, and the employees are cared for and that operations and processes are done according to regulations.

There has always been a deep interest in Chihuahua to support companies and entrepreneurs that want to set themselves up here. We need to aggressively promote exploration to provide an interesting inventory of projects for investors. Chihuahua has vast mineral wealth that has not fully been harnessed by exploration. There are some regions in the state such as Batopilas where exploration has found silver deposits with ore grades of 1kg per tonne of rock. This is just an example of how lucrative a mining project in our state can be. To help mining entrepreneurs, we are now creating a fund for start-up companies in order to provide them with the training and capital they need to expand the reach of their companies. There are many things a mining cluster can do in order to strengthen the mining industry nationwide, including cooperation with other clusters. For instance, we have been talking to the cluster of Coahuila since we like their approach of integrating the oil and gas sector within the mining cluster. We are now assessing if we could take on such an approach and evaluating the effect of the secondary laws of the Energy Reform. We are also considering our expansion into a regional cluster together with Durango since working together will make us stronger.

Q: How does CLUMIN help its member companies to develop solid and lasting ties to rural communities?

A: We can be a valuable tool when troubles arise, acting as a third party that may help to solve issues between operators and communities. After all, the cluster creates an interaction between miners and local communities through suppliers. We always seek to support the party that has reason on its side and help ensure justice is served. We want everyone involved to understand that their actions will not only affect the work at the mine but a large part of the population which depends on mining companies for work. From my experience, most companies do what they can to avoid problems and to be socially responsible. We are also looking to get involved with the state and municipal governments to identify the main needs in each municipality and to ensure that relevant funds are used responsibly and efficiently to have an optimal positive impact.