Chile Digs In at MINExpo

The Chilean delegation has a large presence at the 2012 edition of MINExpo in to promote the resource-rich South American nation. With a replica of the rescue vessel that saved 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine in 2010 standing proudly nearby, the delegates boasted about its vast resources which are expected to generate approximately $100 billion in investment in the next eight years. A third of this investment will be made in the region of Antofagasta, a region in central Chile that has a large amount of copper. Chile produces 34 percent of the world’s copper, and 54 percent can be found throughout Antofagasta. That means the region produces 18 percent of all the copper in the world. However, as reported by Reuters Monday afternoon, the worldwide industry isn’t buying into Chile as quickly as hoped amid fears that the country isn’t ready to take on the robust boost in business. The report cites mass protests by Chileans demanding a bigger share of copper earnings and opposition groups jeopardizing approved plans for power plants and major copper mines. The story also says experts blame poor land-use planning and a centralized governmental decision-making process. The region hopes those fears are stemmed during the upcoming EXPONOR 2013, an international exhibition that will bring about 1,000 exhibitors from 30 countries to Antofogasta in April 2013. Expo Manager Andrea Moreno realizes there is a lot of work to do to bring the region and Chile overall up to speed, but initiatives are under way to make this a reality. “The government and other companies are working to assure we have the supply of operators, energy and human resources,” Moreno says. One challenge is bringing the Chilean mining industry up to speed with the ins and outs of underground mining. Moreno admits this expertise is lacking in the Andean nation because most mining taking place in Chile is open pit. She says organizations like the Antofagasta Industrial Association – which organizes EXPONOR and employs Moreno – are seeking partners from other nations who regularly conduct underground mining, especially Australia. The federal government and the Universidad de Chile launched the first Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) of Australia center in December 2011. According to Chile’s website, the center will focus on investigating new applications of mining technology. The center will work with the Advanced Mining Technology Center at the Universidad de Chile’s Sciences and Mathematics campus, and the $19.5 million (USD) will come from the Chilean Economic Development fund. Along with the main center in Santiago, Chile, there will be a satellite location in Antofagasta. “It’s very important to have the experience of other counties who know underground,” Moreno says. “It’s not normally done here.”

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