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How can public bodies support mining companies to comply with ESG and environmental standards? This was the main topic of Mexico Mining Forum 2021’s third panel on day 2, “Expert Guidance for Building an Integral Mining Project in Mexico” on Thursday, Feb. 11. The term “integral mining project” refers to the integration of all possible needs and effects that a mining project could generate both socially and environmentally. In that sense, an integral mining project is one that has planned ahead for all possible contingencies and contemplated all possible consequences of its development plan to mitigate negative impacts and boost positive ones.
The experts that participated in the panel represent Mexican public institutions demanding the highest standards regarding sustainable development from the mining industry. The panel was moderated by Lic. José Rafael Jabalera Batista, Mining Development Director at the Ministry of Economy (SE). Jabalera had been mentioned by name quite a few times throughout the forum. He is recognized as the person from the current administration who has supported ongoing mining operations, particularly during the pandemic. Jabalera recognized the urgency that exists in the relationship between Mexico and the mining industry. Mexico has a great need for investment to reactivate its economy and mining companies have a great need to take advantage of Mexico’s enormous geological potential, he said. "We are here to support any company or investor that wants to develop a mining project and to establish a good relationship with the communities," Jabalera said. He also admitted to something that previous panels had made reference to, which is that permitting and legal procedures for miners have experienced significant delays throughout 2020. However, he also explained that these delays were very much reasonable considering the great number of people within the federal government’s workforce who are vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
Mining operations need support from experts who can understand their development goals from a geological perspective. In that sense, Dr. Flor de María Harp Iturribarría, Director General of the Mexican Geological Service (SGM), was very thorough when explaining the importance of SGM’s services. SGM guarantees the standards of mining operations through the creation of strategies for the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters derived from geological analysis, such as flooding, landslides, cave-ins and sinkholes. Its geohydrological studies, in collaboration with CONAGUA and Civil Protection, have prevented deaths and also play a vital role in making sure that groundwater reserves are not contaminated by mining activities. Harp also acknowledged the role SGM played in adapting the industry to the conditions imposed by the pandemic. "COVID-19 forced us to establish better protocols and there were many sudden changes, which was a challenge. However, mining has adapted to this new reality."
The Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) also plays an important role in environmental regulation in Mexico. Mtra. Gabriela Esperanza Milán Chávez, Director of Mining at SEMARNAT, talked about the process through which new norms and regulations regularly update the environmental standards of the mining industry. "We need responsible mining. It is no longer enough for mining companies to be profitable. They must be socially and environmentally responsible.” Milán Chávez emphasized that the mining industry will not only play a key role in Mexico’s economic recovery, as it could also become a global example of a sustainable and ethical economic growth. She also responded to questions regarding indigenous consultations and made it clear that SEMARNAT was working with various public institutions to define the exact legal parameters for these consultations, which are now a requirement for the issuing of all new concessions.
When it comes to social responsibility and community engagement, mining companies can do a lot to develop local suppliers and promote the training of Mexican mining talent. In this regard, the panel featured the participation of Lic. Silverio Gerardo Tovar Larrea, Director General of Credit, Finance and Administration at the Government Trust for Mining Development (FIFOMI), who emphasized his support for mining projects through funds that are raised independently and have remained self-sufficient through ROI since their original conformation in the 1970s. Tovar Larrea said it was very important for him to participate in integral mining projects. "We have incorporated environmental, social and fiscal criteria in our evaluations to promote responsible mining in Mexico."