Esther Arzate
México Minero
View from the Top

México Minero: Everything Begins With Mining

By Alejandro Ehrenberg | Mon, 12/14/2020 - 08:00

Don't miss Esther Arzate's participation as a speaker at Mexico Mining Forum 2021 on February 10-11. You can find the program and registration here!

Q: What is México Minero’s mission?

A: México Minero was launched five years ago with the purpose of raising awareness of how mining is interwoven into everyday life. Our slogan is “Everything has a beginning: everything begins with mining.” The organization is a nonprofit, backed by Mexico’s Mining Chamber (CAMIMEX), the Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico (AIMMGM), companies throughout mining’s value chain and universities. We strive to educate people about the ways mining is practiced today.

The concern we wanted to address is that there exists a general opinion of the industry that does not correspond to reality and how the industry operates at present. Modern mining prioritizes the health and safety of its employees, cares about the natural environment, fosters human rights and engages collaboratively with its communities. Only a small population segment recognizes this reality: those who actually work close to mining operations. We want to publicize mining’s good practices.

Q: How do you implement your mission?

A: We carry out diverse activities with the goal of communicating comprehensively across a wide spectrum of people, from small children to senior citizens. We are active on social media and have PR strategies in place with respect to traditional media. Our informational work is very intense in mining communities, too. An interesting program we have with mining communities is called Cine Móvil. We set up a movie theater and play commercial films for the community. We integrate educational activities before and after the showings, through which we demonstrate to children how mining is present in everything, from the film’s screen to the projector, and also in computers or medicines.

Another project we are involved in is related to mining conventions. While mining professionals take the space on the convention floor, México Minero uses public spaces, like city squares and parks, to pass along our message to people. We do this simultaneously while the convention takes place. When people enter the 1,000m2 Expo México Minero tent, they find VR materials, theater plays, AR screens and physical samples of minerals. We provide a wide array of activities whose goal is to change the younger generations’ perception of mining. Most people who attend our events rate them as fun, didactic and engaging. Most have said that their idea of mining has been transformed as a result of the event.

Q: How viable is to change Mexico’s established narrative regarding mining?

A: Mexico has a long history with mining. In the past, several situations were mishandled and those events are taught in schools. The narrative is also expressed in Mexico’s muralist school of art. Nevertheless, we have to transcend that narrative. We cannot remain stuck in the narrative that corresponds to how mining was conducted 200 or 400 years ago. This notion will not be changed overnight, but it is important to start working to change it. We are building a counter-narrative that better captures the reality.

Q: What is the best way to foster dialogue among groups that have different opinions of mining?

A: We interact with all audiences. Most people are indifferent or just mildly against the industry. To engage all of them in dialogue, we present independent, verified information to them. Statistics speak for themselves. We approach every audience and communicate assertively and honestly. The idea is that they become willing to at least engage in conversation because the mining can be an engine for development when done right.

Q: How do you communicate proactively instead of reactively when a mistake or an accusation is made?

A: Mining companies need to build positive relationships with the media. They must inform the world about the good things they do and the efforts they are making to improve things that are not optimal yet. We have had very rewarding experiences with the media and journalists who have shown interest in the industry. We have made efforts to train journalists in mining so that they can cover the industry from a more informed viewpoint. The pieces they produce are much more relevant regarding the reality of the industry. We also take them to visit the mines. The work has to be collaborative between the industry and media. Slowly, we are changing the prevalent opinion so that Mexican society can be proud of its mining heritage. An informed society can demand things that are actually relevant to the way mining is practiced today. There is room to improve, of course, but thinking that mining today is done like it was centuries ago is not conducive to positive changes.

Q: How does México Minero attract talent to the mining industry?

A: We do a lot of work at universities. Expo México Minero is involved with earth sciences students. We foster the interest of younger boys and girls to consider fields of study like mining engineering and geology. Today’s mining industry requires professionals from other fields as well so we also approach data scientists, environmentalists, anthropologists or communications students at various universities to let them know that modern mining needs them. They should also know that salaries in the industry are 39 percent above Mexico’s average.

México Minero is a non-governmental organization that promotes sustainable mining.

Alejandro Ehrenberg Alejandro Ehrenberg Journalist and Industry Analyst