Demetrio Gongora
Member of the Organizing Committee
Reunión Internacional de Minería (RIM) Zacatecas
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Insight

Metals Recovery for Zacatecas

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 13:38

RIM is a biannual event organized by the Mexican Association of Mining Metallurgists, Engineers, and Geologists (AIMMGM) in Zacatecas, a state that is leading the production of gold, silver, lead, and zinc. According to Demetrio Góngora, a Member of the Organizing Committee, the objective is to close the gap between mine companies and suppliers and attract those with the purchasing power in the industry. “Our event also generates business links and is interesting especially for embassy trade missions,” he claims. “Our most recent edition focused on improving commercial channels and disseminated the future of technology within the silver mining industry.” Industrias Peñoles, Fresnillo, First Majestic Silver, Pan American Silver, Minera Frisco, Goldcorp, and Capstone Mining are examples of companies establishing themselves in Zacatecas. Due to growing interest in the area, Góngora believes that it is more important than ever to set up networking spaces to improve Mexico’s position in the global mining market.

The event is currently promoting alliances and agreements with universities to improve the quality of degree courses and increase their academic level. “Mexico’s mining industry urgently needs to upgrade the university programs that are being offered as they are behind on current trends,” he asserts. “There needs to be more communication among mining companies and academia so that players can channel the short, medium, and long term needs of the industry in terms of skill. It would also be beneficial for the students to have closer contact with top players. Consequently, we have devised training programs that help arm recently graduated scholars with the right tools to enter the market faster and spend less overall time in training.” According to Góngora, RIM provides fewer and more exclusive conferences. “This year, our program included speakers such as the Michael DiRienzo, the Director of The Silver Institute, and Patricia Mohr, the former Vice President of Scotiabank.”

One emerging trend found within mining companies, according to Góngora, is a recent scramble to increase metal production. “The low price market is forcing increased manufacturing levels, although without demand the supply is soon bound to drop,” he predicts. “The answer to optimized manufacturing lies in technology, and several companies are innovating products that can revolutionize the industry in terms of production, control, and safety.” He observes that software programs and simulators have grown in popularity as they offer a virtual reality of the operation and exploration that can help companies plan for the future accordingly. This kind of technology facilitates the process of making estimates about the length of time, money, and supplies that will be needed to complete projects.

For most players environmental issues are an obligatory consideration that need to be addressed due to mandatory norms. Companies like Goldcorp have botanical gardens and fauna recovery areas for coyotes and prairie dogs. Other players take care of wildlife with zoos and reforestation. “In Zacatecas, the industry manages to continuously stay one step ahead of SEMARNAT despite the fact that over the last seven years it has been increasing requirements,” Góngora observes. “The agency has found that the industry already practices many of the new norms they have been incorporating into the standards long before they were required. However, mining companies in Zacatecas are particularly concerned with the Natural Protected Area proposal of 2.55 million hectares that was presented two years ago. We have been negotiating with the government about its size and the ripple effect it could cause the industry as it includes mining activity areas that would affect production.”

In terms of future predictions, Góngora perceives the mining industry will be able to return to its optimal level of three to five years ago, and that metal prices will reactivate the sector in Zacatecas. “At the moment in Mexico, Zacatecas is leading production in gold, silver, lead, and zinc,” he comments. “Two years ago, for each 10 pesos in taxes collected by the state, four pesos came from the mining industry. The state could become the main silver and gold producer in Mexico.”