Enrique Maldonado
Regional Director for Mexico
Grupo Calidra
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Insight

Limestone Leader Banks on Supply Reliability

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 11:11

Lime is an essential chemical that helps to regulate mining processes. Ensuring its availability is a top-flight concern for miners, and they appreciate greatly having a guaranteed supply, says Enrique Maldonado, Regional Manager for Mexico of Grupo Calidra, a leader in the lime mining industry. “Miners are focused on the certainty that they will have the right product on time. Quality and volume are essential to keep the continuity of their operations,” he says.
The product is used to regulate pH in the lixiviation process to prevent sodium cyanide from becoming cyanuric acid, which is extremely toxic. A constant supply of lime is vital to guarantee continuous operations and stoppages can be expensive and dangerous, says Maldonado. “Our main added value is our delivery service reliability,” he says. “Guaranteeing to our clients that we can provide lime at all times allows us to have a competitive advantage.” The company has production facilities in Sonora, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosí, Jalisco, the State of Mexico and Puebla.
Grupo Calidra also invests with its clients to install storage silos so they can maintain stock in case of a contingency. “This implies having a backup volume as preventive measure,” Maldonado says. For example, during winter, the access routes to reach client facilities often are closed due to frozen roads, making access by truck almost impossible. Another example is blocked access resulting from protests. “We provide storage for those days when we cannot reach a company,” Maldonado says. The same principle applies to the possibility of a mine blockade, which is tackled by providing some lime on consignment.
Besides making its operations and services reliable, Grupo Calidra is also focusing on sustainability. “We are committed to corporate ethics and supporting social programs,” Maldonado says. “We have some of the most modern lime plants in the world, with zero emissions. Our blasts are completely controlled so we do not expel the rock but only fragment it, preventing dust contamination, material damages or personal injuries.” The century-old company defines itself as a miner because the main raw material comes from mined limestone but it also has a strong presence in the infrastructure, chemical and steelmaking industries.
Maldonado says that the uncertainty rippling through the mining industry is a result of the political landscape, which is having an impact on potential future investment. “Our perception about the federal administration is not good or bad, but a lot of uncertainty,” he explains. “The question is not the cost-effectiveness or profitability of the invested money but the vulnerability of the permissions to open or expand new projects. The companies with these projects would become our customers.”
The government’s unpredictability when it comes to the mining industry is directly affecting companies like his, Maldonado adds. “We have not canceled any projects yet, but we have postponed them all.” Although the company’s current projects have already paid for engineering and allocated resources, it is waiting to see what direction the new government administration takes regarding the Mexican industrial sector.
One example of the current climate’s impact on the industry is a delay in Grupo Calidra’s plans to build a third kiln in Hermosillo. “We have concluded the corresponding geological studies and found abundant reserves of good quality limestone. We have world-class technology and engineering for this project and we are sure that there is enough market for this surplus of production if the government outlines clear rules but this project is on hold,” Maldonado explains. “Although our projects and investments in Mexico are on standby; our investments in Latin America continue,” he adds.
Maldonado also mentions the case of its facility in San Luis Potosi, which has zero emissions. “The government did not want to renew our construction license when the plant was only in development due to political interests and a change of party in the state,” he says. “Our operation was stopped for three years and we are only starting to reactivate it.” he says. Grupo Calidra is especially concerned about environmental permits and concessions. “Projects will continue but the industry needs to lobby together for certainty.”