ECUADOR - Energy & Mining
President of the Board, Mining Chamber of Ecuador (CME)
Nathan Monash, Vice President of Business Sustainability, has developed sustainability strategies and corporate governance structures for mining companies operating in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia. He is the author of several publications on these topics and has worked for companies such as AngloGold Ashanti, the International Finance Corporation, Rio Tinto Alcan and for the World Economic Forum. He currently leads the integration of sustainability processes into all areas of Lundin Gold, ensuring the long-term viability of both the business and the communities in which the Company operates. Monash is currently President of the Board of the Mining Chamber of Ecuador.
The Mining Chamber of Ecuador’s mission is to promote the development of the entire sector while ensuring it always operates with environmental responsibility and provides benefits to the community.
How would you define the mission of the chamber?
CME represents the entire mining industry, and our mission is to promote the development of the entire sector. CME seeks to continue to promote an industry that operates with environmental responsibility, provide benefits to the community, and acts with transparency. As we look to the future, large-scale mining will bring the greatest level of investment, and it is a part of our industry that is just now starting production in Ecuador.
Can you tell us more about the mining projects in Ecuador?
There are two mines that are already operating: Fruta del Norte is managed by Lundin Gold and has been operating since 2019. In 2021, it produced more than 428,000 ounces of gold, which is a significant level of production, with important contributions to the national—and especially provincial—economy. Mirador is a large-scale copper mine that has also been operating since 2019 and is exporting large quantities of copper. Río Blanco is a different case. It started operations but has since halted due to a court order some years ago. This is a case that has not yet been resolved, and the goal of the Chamber of Mining is for Río Blanco to operate again and continue to contribute positively to local communities and the country.
What strategies did the chamber employ to support companies in the sector in difficult times?
Ecuador was affected by an economic contraction of almost 8% in 2020 and the two large-scale mines temporarily closed in response to COVID-19, just as they were gaining some momentum. A large-scale mine is not a switch that can be immediately turned on and off and so it took time to reach full production levels even once they restarted later in 2020. The CME has played an important role in promoting good practices within the sector, especially in response to the pandemic. The role of the chamber has been key as we coordinated and facilitated donations and support from our members, which represent the majority of the industry.
What is your assessment of the main advantages of investing in Ecuador’s mining sector?
There are many reasons to invest in Ecuador, one of which is the dollarization of the economy. Additionally, the clear commitment of the national government to promote the development of a responsible mining industry is key. The national government is actively promoting foreign investment to further develop the mining sector. As it does so, it is essential for the industry to continue to work with transparency and demonstrate its environmental stewardship. Responsible companies minimize impacts and proactively protect the environment. CME has a strong communication campaign and seeks to engage with stakeholders to explain proper environmental management in the industry. We address water management, for example. This is an area where the industry is having quite positive impacts. It is essential that the CME communicates effectively and extensively about the sector’s activities.
What are the goals of the chamber for 2022?
It is important to continue working hand in hand with the national government and create an enabling environment to continue developing the sector. It is essential that Ecuador continues to receive foreign investment in the early phase of the development of a mining project, namely exploration. For this, the reopening of the cadastre is a key priority. Additionally, CME will seek clarity on how the industry will continue to progress in light of recent rulings from the Constitutional Court. The next step is therefore the establishment of a law addressing this topic, one that ensures respect of the rights of all stakeholders and allows for the responsible development of the mining sector. 2022 represents a key moment in the development of the Ecuadorian mining sector. There is great geological potential in Ecuador, and though little of the country has been explored, we have found multiple world-class deposits.
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