GEMERA: THE EXPLORATION PUTS THE EYE ON THE COPPER
The Grupo de Empresas Exploradoras de la República Argentina understands that its reactivation may be faster than for the rest.
In the middle of the great economic revolution generated by the coronavirus pandemic at world level, the exploration in the province of San Juan could be sustained at higher levels than the rest of the sector and projects its reactivation based on the red metal and the future great demand it will have from China.
“The exploration companies were able to sustain the activity during this season that was affected by the coronavirus, at a rate of 60, 65%. We went down on March 21 because of the national willingness to stop the activity and on April 3 we were already working again with all the necessary biosafety protocols,” commented Ricardo Martínez, geologist, businessman and member of the Board of Directors of Gemera (Grupo de Empresas Exploradoras de la República Argentina).
And he continued: “China will continue to attract mineral consumption and the great potential of our province lies in copper hosted in the Andean cordon. It is a possibility we cannot lose”.
The entity that gathers the exploration companies in the country indicated that they are optimistic beyond the effects caused by the pandemic. Especially for the work done during the last season to increase the reserves of the mines in activity as Veladero and Gualcamayo. But at the same time, they also indicated that the drillings after the closure of the Casposo mine “unfortunately” have not had the expected results on the eve of a possible reactivation.
“Now we must take advantage of this to put the house in order very strongly, especially in terms of retentions, the Glacier Law and all the controversy that is generated around mining,” said Martínez.
The exploration activity has been sustaining a positive cycle of reactivation in the province of San Juan during the last three years, which anticipates good results for the future. However, the company agrees that one of the major obstacles to overcome will be to attract future investors in the midst of a possible default.
“It is true that the capital markets are very complicated at present. Globally, junior companies (which are mainly involved in the initial exploration of projects) are becoming less active and these places are being taken over by larger companies. And in this sense, Argentina and San Juan have attracted large companies over the last few years, which suggests that the positive figures for exploration can be maintained after the pandemic passes,” explained the geologist.
“Looking to the future in San Juan, the closest thing to my understanding is the El Pachón project, especially because of its degree of progress. We believe it can be quite fast and when a project is launched it will pull the others in,” Martinez concluded.
Juan Quiroga’s life was not the same after the mandatory quarantine was decreed. He had to show speed, ability to react and, above all, calm. Juan provides security for the offices and high-rise camp of a leading international mining company exploring at Rincones de Araya and Vanesa in Calingasta. His task is to advise employees on aspects related to industrial hygiene and safety, so that everyone can carry out their work without accidents and in perfect health conditions. On March 21, after social isolation was declared, preventive and obligatory, he had to demobilize some 40 people from the mountain range, including geologists, technicians and contractors. For him, both that experience and the return to activity were a learning experience. “Covid-19 allowed me to see that mining generated workers with a culture of safety in the workplace. This is a new risk that adds to the range of the industry, but the mining worker already has incorporated that a badly managed risk can cost a life,” said Juan.
Javier Robeto said the experience of the mandatory quarantine set the tone for the changes that will come to the camps of the exploration companies next season. A geologist and country manager for Minera Peregrine, the firm exploring the Altar project in Calingasta and a subsidiary of Canada’s Aldebaran, said the explorers “will have to start thinking about retrofitting the infrastructure of the camps. The fact is that the obligatory social distance present today in all sanitary protocols imposes that companies begin to evaluate the infrastructure and logistics of their camps, expanding internal spaces or incorporating divisions, for example. “This reality accelerated the process of starting to work in a virtual way, something that was foreseen but not in a massive way so we all ended up training for that, the other thing I see is the adaptability of the people, in mining they are very used to work through protocols so I think that for those of us in the industry it is n
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