Luis Alba Solís
Director of Mines
View from the Top

Paving the Road for Chihuahua’s Mining Industry

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 11:00

Q: What does Chihuahua have to offer the mining industry, and why have its reserves not been exploited to the same extent that they have in other states of the country?

A: In the past, mining as an industry in Chihuahua did not receive the attention that it deserved. With the attention that high metal prices brought to the industry, investors from around the world started to look for a mining paradise like Chihuahua. The state provides social stability, political facilities, security, labor force, and world class deposits. The current governor has made several modifications to the legal framework, allowing productive activities to be more easily performed. It is for this reason that many foreign and domestic companies are operating in Chihuahua.

Chihuahua has vast mineral wealth. It has mercury, silver, gold, copper, lead, iron, zinc, coal, and uranium, among many other minerals. We have around 4,100 mining claims, which is understandable given the number of deposits that exist in this region of the country. Chihuahua’s Sierra Madre Occidental is endowed with large gold and silver deposits. To the east, there are regions that are rich in zinc, lead, and iron. The geological formations in our state, as well as the veins and scattered deposits, result in the existence of projects of all scales.

Q: What role does the government of Chihuahua play in advancing the position of the state in the Mexican mining industry?

A: One of our most important achievements has been government programs for infrastructure, such as the construction of new roads and electric power infrastructure, which facilitate mining projects. For example, the Piedras Verdes Mine currently has a capacity of 1,000 t/d, but thanks to new electrical transmission infrastructure it will be able to increase its capacity to 3,000 t/d. We have also been able to simplify the process for the use and storage of explosives for small and medium miners, which was a challenge in itself but has brought many benefits. Something else that is being considered is the construction of a foundry, since there are none, forcing small producers to sell their product cheaper. The current government is planning to build a foundry where iron balls for mills and mineral concentrates will be processed. In terms of social stability, we have a good relationship with union leaders and ejidatarios. We have promoted the continuation of operations and reduced strikes by managing the relationship between both parties.

The State Development Plan is very comprehensive in the area of mining. The government plays a proactive role: we advise and support the industry in the state, starting with small scale mining. We bring them together and fund them, and we also provide equipment, consulting services, and facilitate the permit process. We have a bigger mining budget than any other state government.

Q: What impact has the mining industry had in economic and labor terms, as well as at the social level?

A: Mining in Chihuahua has brought great benefits to our community. The industry has promoted the development of local companies and has activated other productive activities. Mining has brought important economic benefits to regions where no other industry has been before. Very few states welcome mining companies, but in the Sierra Madre Occidental the industry is warmly received because there are few alternatives for economic development in this region. Fortunately, the biggest mining projects in the state are there. For example, we recently witnessed the contribution of over US$300,000 from a mining company to a local community to finance its sewerage system.

Q: What are your expectations for the development of mining activities in Chihuahua in the years to come?

A: We have three years left under this administration. Thanks to the Governor’s support for mining, and because the industry is a priority in the State Development Plan, we hope to set in motion at least three of the state’s biggest projects. We want to move forward the El Cordero project, which is the size of Peñasquito in Zacatecas, and we also want to boost La Cigarra, which is in Parral. Another objective is to activate those claims that are not being worked on. There are many claims that are not being explored in any way. Therefore, it is essential to work on the legal framework so that the title owner is forced to explore the land or let it go so that someone else can.