Eurídice González
Founder
Mujeres WIM de Mexico

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Mining as a Key Factor in Social Development

By Eurídice Salomé González | Wed, 06/01/2022 - 09:00

I have been working in mining for 20 years in Mexico. It all started almost by chance, when a mining company was established in my hometown and I was given the opportunity to work there, despite not being an expert in earth sciences. This opportunity introduced a new and unknown world to me, not only from a gender and diversity perspective but as a human being.

I felt amazed seeing every stage of the process involved in obtaining raw minerals and learning about the great amount of economic, human, and social resources that it takes to extract these materials, which end up in the vast majority of the products and materials that humanity needs in our daily lives.

For almost two decades, my family and I have become aware of the importance of mining for every person in the world we live in.

I have also witnessed the efforts that mining and supply companies in Mexico put into developing their operations, along with all the social, governmental and environmental challenges, not to mention compliance with more than 1,000 different laws and norms.

Mining operations are often the only alternative for development in places where no other industry can get to. Many mines are located in places that are difficult to access and by vocation become the most important ally, if not the only one, for most of the people who live in those remote areas.

A recent example while working in the state of Chihuahua for a mining company that had been in the area for more than a decade, this company had a camp and installed a clinic to provide free medical attention for all the people working at the mine and living in the region.

It was the only medical attention residents of the region had access to in a radius of more than 50km. It was also the only clinic for more than 30 communities located in the mountains.

I frequently have heard stories that touch the heart, such as the birth of babies or the times that lives were saved because help was provided on time, and other stories of patients who come needing urgent medical help. Eventually community members come to feel like family.

Regardless of the number of jobs erroneously called “direct,” four times the number of “indirect” jobs are generated. It is quite common that these jobs benefit women who become economically empowered and have a great and direct influence on the economic development of the area.

The presence of mining companies often becomes the engine for development in the areas where mining is conducted; therefore, it is necessary that this industry is integrated as a key player into the national geopolitical and economic development strategy.

Authorities, regulators, academia, institutions, legislators, and mining companies are required to work together and be integrated in a comprehensive political and socioeconomic strategy to promote common objectives toward sustainability that can be converted into a point of convergence through the many resources that need to be combined to achieve a common good.

However, there does not appear to be enough involvement in the current context, where changes to the law and the lack of a sufficient foundation are leading nowhere. One important example is what is currently happening with the tax participation of the Mining Fund; it is not truly clear who benefits from that robust source of tax contribution.

In developed countries, mining is considered an essential economic and national security activity. The US Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its June 2019 report prepared by Marc Humphreys provides a detailed overview of critical minerals and the public policy of the US, whose government has expressed its concern about the dependence on imports of critical materials and the possible interruption of supply chains.

He published a list of 34 critical minerals, of which the US needs to import 14; hence, his concern over US dependence on Asian producers. The report recognizes the importance of investing in exploration to have the mineral resources and reserves to meet demand in the medium and long term.

Mexico has great mineral resources, professionals, and technology to promote mining as a key performer for national development and quality of life improvement in those places with a strong mining vocation. It is imperative to visualize the benefits of mining working in tandem with communities. Our history tells us that a large number of important cities originated thanks to the exploitation of important mineral deposits, for which this industry played a leading role in the economic strategy of our country.

Unfortunately, nowadays, the Mexican mining industry perceives that the virtuous circle that this activity represents for the quality of life of Mexicans has very distant possibilities for growth and development as a result of dogmatized decisions that discourage investment in exploration and mining mineral resources.

Uncertainty in Mexico impacts not only the mining companies and those who invest. It also reduces opportunities for many people who live every day with the experience of having a mining company in their region, which means jobs, training, education and growth, but foremost, social and economic development.

Photo by:   Eurídice González