Industry Misconceptions and How to Efficiently Tackle ThemMon, 10/22/2018 - 11:53
The mining guild is well aware of the misconceptions society has about the sector. Rubén Del Pozo, President of the Zacatecas Chapter of AIMMGM, says dark and dangerous places, workforce exploitation and contamination are just some of the many stigmas the industry carries. “One of the worst ills afflicting mining is misinformation,” he says. “But the industry is responsible for this misguided perception. We have been working in our industry without properly informing society about it.”
To better tackle misinformation, AIMMGM taps into mining expos, congresses and employment fairs, among other initiatives. The Zacatecas Chapter of AIMMGM hosts a yearly mining international expo to connect industry leaders, students and the general population. In 2018, the event borrowed from another expo to better generate goodwill among citizens. The Mexico Minero Exhibition is an initiative promoted by the Zacatecas’ Chapter of AIMMGM in collaboration with CAMIMEX. “The purpose of this effort is to foster sustainable mining, generate jobs and create a liaison between the industry and local communities,” Del Pozo says. “When I first saw Mexico Minero during a mining convention in Acapulco, I perceived a wonderful connection between civilians and the interactive exhibit. I immediately thought about taking the exhibit to our event in Zacatecas.”
Mexico Minero Zacatecas took place for the first time in June 2018. To better capitalize on the MX$4 million investment it required, the exhibition opened a week before the expo opened and finished one week after it concluded. “We know it was a worthy bet as thousands visited the exhibit’s tent. It better acquainted people with mining activity, which is crucial to change the industry’s misconceptions,” he adds.
Del Pozo says there is also a need to inform people of the economic benefits mining provides. The industry represents around 11,000 direct jobs in the state, with wages 30 percent higher than the Zacatecas average. “I am sure that mining companies offer the best wages. But being in the middle of other industries during a general employment fair, this information is not communicated,” he says.
To put the industry front and center, the Zacatecas Chapter of AIMMGM pushed for the creation of a mining employment fair in collaboration with the state’s government. Del Pozo says the initiative was a great success. “During its first edition we had huge lines of people seeking jobs: men and women, miners and geologists, workers and engineers,” he says.
But tackling mining misconceptions is not only about providing better informing but also about integrating the local community into the industry’s activities. The Zacatecas chapter of AIMMGM promotes the creation of family workshops near mines to produce inputs that miners require. For example, eye protection can be easily fabricated by locals, just as a community sewing workshop could provide mining vests and overalls. “These workshops initially provide for the mine but ultimately teach locals a new vocation to better provide for themselves.”
This is an important initiative, especially when closing mines leave behind ghost towns, Del Pozo says. “As mining is a finite activity, towns near thriving mines are often left to die out when the mine closes,” Del Pozo says. “Usually, there is nothing left because the mine plan was not developed with its closure in mind.”
Del Pozo believes the government should help prevent this. While he disagrees with the implementation of mining taxes, he emphasizes that if they are to be enforced, at least they should be used for a good purpose. “If mining taxes are to be implemented, as they currently are, the ideal is for them to be properly applied. The authorities often focus on a fleeting benefit instead of a long-term vision. It is important to invest taxpayer money into projects that will really serve and improve the community.”
Despite the wealth a mine can generate, it also represents a significant investment of time and money. Del Pozo believes that the government and people often ignore this reality, believing that a mine inherently represents a treasure. “No other industry is able to wait so long for its investment returns,” he says. “We must make people understand the real value and the huge effort that mining represents.”