Rubén de J. Del Pozo Mendoza
President
AIMMGM (Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico, Zacatecas District)
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Expert Contributor

Learning in the Middle of the Pandemic

By Rubén de J. Del Pozo Mendoza | Fri, 07/09/2021 - 12:50

We are finally seeing hope for an end to our journey through the pandemic and although there is still some time before we can claim victory, the moment inspires me to pause, take a breath and consider the lessons learned from these past few months.

Political

Analyzing the Mexican context, the first great challenge is that a mining country like ours is still not understood as such by the government. The first sign of this was not including this industry in the list of essential activities from the beginning of the pandemic, which caused a decrease in operations and an economic slowdown from which we continue to struggle to recover. This lack of interest in mining sent a clear message to foreign companies, many of whom decided to rethink their investment strategies, resulting in a total investment of US$2.5 billion dollars in the mining sector in 2020, its lowest level in the last 13 years. The lesson learned is that there is an urgent need for real interest on the part of the Mexican authorities to generate legal certainty.

Operational Efficiency

Companies had to adapt quickly to remote administration and with it, become operationally leaner, which allowed companies that were able to adapt to reduce labor costs and boost time efficiency by reducing organizational bureaucracy.

We have learned to better manage our time, to be aware of the achievement of objectives even remotely and that learning can channel us to be more productive, safe and balanced.

Automation

How do we avoid going through the operational havoc of the pandemic again?  Companies have learned that the operation must increasingly be managed autonomously or remotely, so the mining plan for the year 2050 of an operation with a minimum of humans inside the mines has accelerated. To start, we are seeing transportation equipment that already operates this way and although we have a long way to go, automation is here to stay.

Technological Culture

During the past year, our time in front of a screen has filled our lives and even the most reluctant had to embrace the new way of communicating but technology has also reached our equipment and artificial intelligence is present in the operations of the industry. The main requirement now is for people who have the knowledge to work with the new technological applications. In this part of my teaching specialty, I project that programming and use of advanced technologies will increasingly be part of the curriculum.

Human Relations

The pandemic has tested our ability to communicate efficiently and to manage our emotions differently. Teleworking and coordinating staff from a screen is a great challenge, especially communication. This past year has uncovered the great need to advance in our way of approaching others, to motivate, generate specific orders and balance our work with family because the nature of mining and our roles in the industry made us visitors in our home, which has now changed.

The lesson that is here to stay is in balancing our time between our profession, human growth and our relationship with others. Without thinking about it, the traditional ways of mining have changed and we have to adapt quickly.

In my 40 years of experience in mining I have seen diverse changes in the industry; however, in this short time, engineering and technological processes have accelerated, causing a scientific spring in the industry. We hope that every day we can adapt to the changes and become more efficient, safe and balanced.

Photo by:   Rubén del Pozo