Raúl Cruz
Director General
Mexican Geological Survey (SGM)

Rich Geological History Creates Bright Mining Future

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 14:51

Mexico is located in the central-northern part of the American continent, a block that evolved 250 million years ago, detached from the super continent called Pangea.

The geological history of this emerging part of the planet has been changing, although always following a line of evolution that gave rise to multiple landscapes and geo-forms. The associated resources are derived from the earliest phases of continental drift. Most of these resources are related to magmatic processes - that is, those produced by the interaction between the oceanic and continental tectonic plates.

From the Mexican Republic to Patagonia at the southmost point of the continent, along the west coast of South America, over the last 180 million years, the phenomenon called subduction prevails. The oceanic tectonic plates of the Pacific collide and slide below those of North America, Central America and South America, which gives the region surprising but dangerous mobility, characterized by seismic zones, which is why millions of people living on the coastline and within the continent are permanently at risk.

The settlement and historical evolution gave Mexico and the countries of Central America and South America - especially Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina, to mention only a few - a privileged position in terms of precious, basic and non-metallic mineral deposits. Comparatively, Mexico, Peru and Chile compete amicably for the sustainable production of raw minerals, which is essential for supporting the industry. The three countries have an important historical, economic and social component associated with mining activities, even predating the sixteenth century Spanish invasion.

As a result, each country is responsible for promoting mining activities. Mexico covers almost 2 million km2; Peru 1.2 billion km2 and Chile 756,000km2. Among the three countries, 41.2 percent of the world’s silver, 43.6 percent of copper and 9 percent of gold is produced, so it can be said that mining is one of the main catalysts for the country’s economic development. The activity is carried out with care for the environment, and respect for the preservation and

restoration of nature in those communities and regions in which mineral deposits are explored and exploited.

The history of mining in Mexico and Latin America has been more legendary than lucrative, at least in the early epoch, up until industrial modernization and the evolution of technology, which occurred well into the twentieth century. From Atacama and the Tarapaca and Antofagasta mountain ranges, passing through Cusco-Tarija and arriving at Taxco- Pachuca-Zacatecas, the Spanish colonizers found that the natives knew how to work gold, silver and copper, which encouraged them to continue with colonization.

Chile, Mexico, and Peru suffered more pain than glory throughout their mining histories, providing cheap labor to develop the industry, with almost zero social benefits throughout the time the colony prevailed. The evolution through the nineteenth century was equally slow, but the sector grew and expanded from the twentieth century onward, with communities demanding yields, and governments encourage producers to seek a tangible socio-economic benefit.

Consequently, in real terms, it is important to promote the relationship between countries that share not only a thousand-year tradition, but a geological evolution that left behind a legacy of resources that are and will continue to be useful for the survival of humanity.

Minerals do not exist as a by-product. There is always a reason, a process or a circumstance that allows us to associate them with a geological event. Geological sciences have developed since the sixteenth century - when the De Re Metallica treatise was written by the German Georgius Agricola. This was drafted in such a way that not only allows us to know more about the structure of the thin solid crust upon which mankind lives but also about non-renewable resources such as minerals, petroleum, uranium, coal and geothermal deposits.

The knowledge of geological evolution is exciting and important because within this environment it is possible to coexist and marvel at the perfection of nature which, through an almost miraculous balance, has provided all the raw materials that the human race has used since it appeared on the face of the earth.

The concept of exploration has also appeared since time immemorial, and of course the practice has been perfected over time. All countries, governments and societies are concerned with continuing to provide the materials required to maintain the standard of living of today’s society. None of the habits or activities of man and woman would be possible if not for raw materials to build the everyday tools of modernity. There is high demand, and that is why it is essential to continue supplying those materials.

The different countries of the world are aware of the responsibility of responding to internal and external demand, and have taken advantage of globalization by fostering business opportunities for themselves and for foreign actors. Each offers, first and foremost, a variety of geological contexts conducive to rich mineral deposits, as well as expectations for the location of more minerals that will be discovered thanks to the application of increasingly sophisticated exploration techniques.

The Mexican Geological Survey (SGM) is the institution that has committed to disseminate and propagate the geological knowledge of Mexico to encourage investment and contribute to the development of the nation. SGM is responsible for generating geological maps throughout the territory, surveyed to a scale of 1:250,000 and 1:50,000, the latter with sufficient detail to visualize zones and mineralized areas. SGM supplements this data with information on the major and local structures that control mineralization, as well as on stratigraphy, with the support of satellite images that have a surprisingly powerful resolution.

As if this were not enough, to maintain our hard-fought position as the guiding institution in world-renowned geosciences, SGM adds regional aerial geophysics maps that cover 100 percent of the country, including into international waters. It also offers high-resolution geophysical techniques combined with radiometric information on uranium, thorium and potassium channels, as well as aerial electromagnetic time-domain (TEM) methodology, useful for detecting underground sulphide concentrations to determine the geo-hydrological potential of basins in arid and semi-arid zones.

To round off the country’s intrinsic geological appeal, SGM operates two research centers in which mineral contents are characterized and assayed, and metallurgical tests are run to support mineral exploration and benefit decision making. Our technology is capable of identifying 38 elements in active stream sediment samples that are collected during geological surveys, and later are mapped in geochemical maps. This constitute an additional tool that helps the integral exploration of a region or of a district.

Mexico’s landscape is varied, resulting from the geological evolution that gave rise to the formation of extensive mountain ranges of volcanic or sedimentary origin, desert and semi-desert plains, mountain ranges with active volcanoes, rock complexes and reliefs in the south and calcareous platforms in the southeast of the country. The Gulf of Mexico’s coastal zones are wide, and their Pacific counterparts relatively narrow, which can be seen in the case of the Sierra Madre Occidental, the province of the world’s largest gold and silver epithermal deposits.