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ECUADOR - Energy & Mining

Rodrigo Darquea

Head of Corporate Affairs, BHP


Rodrigo Darquea is Head of Corporate Affairs at BHP.

"Copper is a critical mineral for the future, and the global challenges have changed heavily in the last decades."
TBY talks to Rodrigo Darquea, Head of Corporate Affairs at BHP, about the company’s portfolio of projects, copper mining, and social work.
What factors make Ecuador attractive for BHP’s portfolio of projects?

Ecuador has a unique mining potential. As a company one of our focus is copper, and so far, less than 8% of the country has been explored, so we are looking closely to the Ecuadorian market. There have already been important discoveries and we are excited for the projects and developments to come. If you look at South America, the largest copper producers in the world are Chile and Peru, and if you follow the Andes to the north you reach Ecuador. We always knew that Ecuador had enormous opportunities, but for different reasons, there hasn’t been sufficient investment in exploration, which is the primary stage of any mining project. What Ecuador has done regarding mining is only the tip of the iceberg, but we know that the country has enormous geological resources and an important copper endowment. And at BHP, a company with over 135 years of experience, we want to be a partner of choice to maximize what the mining industry has to offer to Ecuador. Currently, there is no other industry with such potential for Ecuador and we are certain that this can change the country’s future, and we want to be partners in that journey.

What are the opportunities for copper regarding the electrification of the world?

Copper is a critical mineral for the future, and the global challenges have changed heavily in the last decades. For example, when we arrived to Ecuador in the 1980s and 1990s —we were part of some of the main discoveries made to date in the country— the world was slowly debating about climate change. We then returned in 2017 and decided to put a sharp and strategic focus on copper, and since then the discussion has been about the energy transition, ESG standards and decarbonization. The mining industry has a lot to offer, because the world of the future will not be able to meet those goals without copper. As an example, experts on this matter claim that in the next 30 years, the world will need more than double the copper than what has already been produced in the last three decades. This is why at BHP we say that copper is a “future-facing commodity”, because the modern world will rely on our ability to produce copper in a sustainable and responsible way. On a practical level, copper is in our houses, mobile phones, cars, eolic turbines, computers, and electric vehicles, just to name a few. It is important to note that the challenge to provide the copper that the world needs is not an easy one: the world’s deposits of copper are depleting, every year it becomes more costly to produce the same metric ton of copper and operate a mine. In addition, copper grades are in decline, they become deeper and between a copper discovery and the start of a mining operation 15 to 20 years can go by. The world needs more copper and Ecuador needs to answer this urgent call.

What is the role of private companies in raising public awareness of the positive aspects of mining?

Private mining companies have an enormous responsibility and we need to be advocates of the positives aspects of mining. Responsible mining creates jobs, generates Social Value, creates shared prosperity, supports local suppliers, develop community programs, supports the economic growth of the country and, at the end, it provides key commodities for the world of the future. But we can’t be alone in this effort: we need government, communities, universities, organizations and experts to be vocal on this matter. We need to get together to create awareness and to be able to explain why Ecuador needs a responsible and future facing mining industry. However, we can’t erase what have been historically questionable practices in the industry. An important part of creating awareness about mining is showing that all those practices have been removed. This is a fundamental part of a new chapter for Ecuador. This should not be just a dream: we must bring into fruition a responsible, sustainable and high standard mining industry for the country.

BHP Ecuador won the HSEC Global Awards, which stands for Health Safety Environment and Community. What social projects led to Ecuador receiving the accolade?

At BHP our purpose is to bring people and resources together to build a better world, and the HSEC Awards celebrates and recognizes different programs and initiatives that bring this purpose to life. In the case of Ecuador, we won the award in the Community and Indigenous Peoples Excellence category with a exploration project in Morona Santiago, in which BHP had a relatively short-term presence on the ground, but a lasting and positive impact in the community. The team was able to build strong relationships with the Shuar community while managing expectations in an uncertain environment, which as we all know is one of the challenges with exploration and community engagement. Our project illustrated to the community the benefits of having a company like BHP in their territory, with strong values and executing the exploration project to high standards. Some key outcomes of the project for the community include employment of 63% of the Economically Active Population in the direct influence area, and access to sanitation services increased from 15% to 65%, changing the health and lives of many people. This is what at BHP we understand as Social Value.



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