Galo Galeana
Head of the General Direction of Energy and Extractive Activities
SEMARNAT
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View from the Top

Triggering Positive Change for Mining

Sat, 10/28/2017 - 17:20

Q: What are the biggest challenges SEMARNAT faces with the mining industry and how does the institution overcome these?

A: One of the biggest challenges has to do with the cultural change among mining companies to include the idea of productivity and sustainability within their operations. Sustainability and environmental protection have often been perceived as opposing concepts. Great work has been done to change this point of view, especially in the enhancement of communication networks. For example, we have worked alongside the mining sector to reinforce the official standards that apply to the industry and make miners realize that productivity and process efficiency implies less environmental har

Q: How does SEMARNAT enforce environmental and social compliance in the mining sector?

A: Once again, communication and teamwork is the key. Even the most perfect enforcement system in the world would not work at all without commitment. PROFEPA’s work is key in this process with two of its programs (environmental inspection and environmental auditing) aimed toward promoting outstanding environmental performance on a voluntary basis. Along with PROFEPA’s work, consultation forums with communities are essential, and this process has been continuously enhanced. A project should not be carried out without social awareness, which implies community enrollment and respect for different ways of life. There is no better thermometer of the success of a project than an informed community.

Q: What actions is Mexico adopting to meet international benchmarks for environmental and social legislation?

A: We are not isolated in the world, so we have always been aware of the growing trend toward globalization. We are part of a global community and our rules must be aligned with the worldwide context to maintain the competitiveness of our mining sector. We always seek to evaluate what other countries are doing and benchmark our performance. It would be irresponsible not to do so.

Q: How effective have laws such as LGEEPA been in promoting environmental sustainability in the Mexican mining industry?

A: The current regulatory system is quite effective in promoting environmental sustainability. As a matter of fact, the environmental impact assessment is a tool that combines not only the point of view of how a mining company wants to perform a project, but how the authority considers it must be performed in an environmentally conscious way. One of the things that should be done to strength our legislation is related to the mine closure plan presentation, and that is what we are now working on. Although there is a process for mine closure in the current system, there is a lack of formal planning within legislation.

Communication between the social, private and public sectors needs to be worked on constantly because collaboration among the three parties is a key contributory factor to reaching better levels of commitment and implementation. International laws adopted by the Mexican government already obligate miners to take social approval into account in order to implement sustainable projects. Permanent communication will allow us to design environmental criteria that satisfies all parties.

Q: In what ways does SEMARNAT collaborate with international organizations to promote environmental and social projects in the mining industry?

A: SEMARNAT is working along with several international organizations. For instance, right now we are working with the World Bank on two projects related to the mining sector. We have also received technical assistance from the Canadian Embassy on themes related to tailing dams. We are continually updating our official standards so they can cope with new challenges and imposing new sustainability goals on the sector.