Patricia Salinas Alatorre
Economy Minister
Ministry of Economy of Zacatecas
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Silver Lining for the Economy of Zacatecas

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 15:16

Q: What role does the mining industry play in the economy of Zacatecas?

A: Zacatecas’s wealth is mostly located underground, though our economy has also been highly influenced by agriculture. Mining represents a large part of the state’s economy, and this mineral wealth has been a historical source of economic development for the state. The first settlers in the region were mining investors that found opportunities not only in Fresnillo but in other municipalities of the state, too.

Q: Zacatecas is the biggest silver producer in the world and Mexico’s second largest gold producer. What strategy is in place to maintain this position?

A: The state’s main advantages are its geographical location in the center of Mexico and the positive business climate that we promote and work on every day. The latter point is confirmed by the results of the Doing Business 2012 Report, conducted recently by the World Bank, in which Zacatecas was ranked 12th out of the country’s 32 states, and first in contract enforcement. This sends an important message about the state’s commitment to the mining companies that are interested in investing here. Thanks to the state’s natural attractiveness, Zacatecas enjoys a constant flow of investment - the challenge is to keep it. The Ministry of Economic Development does this by generating a pro-mining climate.

The state government participates actively in the Zacatecas Mining Cluster (CLUSMIN). The state governor of Zacatecas is at present the Cluster’s honorary president, representing the institution along with its president Jaime Lomelín Guillén. I have the honor of serving as the Cluster’s secretary, as a representative of the Economic Development Ministry. Our role is following up on the agreements reached by the Cluster, certifying them, and participating in the resulting programs. We are also very engaged in the activities of CLUSMIN’s Provider Development Committee, fostering investment in the supply of products and services to the mining industry from local sources. We aim to help promote the growth of suppliers and service providers by creating an industrial park where they can establish themselves and take advantage of incentives such as land price, tax breaks, employee scholarships, and training. Four companies have already set up business in Zacatecas as service providers for the mining industry, and we are in talks with 30 other companies. This is part of our plan to make a big impact on direct and indirect employment creation in Zacatecas.

During 2013, 48 exploration projects are taking place across 70 assets in the state. We expect that 10% of these projects can be turned into mines over the next 10 years. It is also important to note that, while it previously took us 10 years to reach mining production, we have halved the time necessary to establish a mine in Zacatecas. We have two very notable examples in the state: Harbor Mining and First Majestic’s Del Toro mine. These projects were completed in a two year period, and in both cases the collaboration between the private sector and the government was a decisive factor in the efficacy of mine development.

Q: What are the support programs you have implemented to meet the human talent needs of the mining industry?

A: The state’s efforts are currently focused on training qualified manpower for the mining industry, in order to address the shortage of specialized human talent. The goal of our programs is to significantly increase the supply of human capital to the industry in the next three years, as well as boosting the state’s economy by generating employment. The mining industry demands capable engineers with knowledge in geology, topography, mechanics, and civil engineering. Moreover, considering the complex machinery that the sector currently uses, companies require engineers with the ability to manage mining processes while using state of the art technology. The education sector in Zacatecas has taken this need into account and is responding accordingly. On the educational front, we have created employment generation programs with several of the state’s 27 universities. Some of these institutions have also incorporated mining programs into their curricula. For example, the Autonomous University of Fresnillo (UAF) is already coordinating the implementation of its mining program with the Education Ministry. The Polytechnic Institute and other technological universities are also integrating mining subjects into their engineering programs.