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Cesco Week's annual conference takes place in Santiago, bringing together the main players in the global copper mining industry. 

By John Byrne
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Every year at the beginning of April, Cesco Week takes place in Santiago. This Conference brings together the main players in the global copper mining industry. The meeting is a good barometer, presenting the short and medium-term challenges faced by the industry.

The flavor of this year’s meeting was particularly interesting. The hardest end-stages of the super cycle seem to have been left behind, with a prevailing atmosphere of ‘cautious optimism’. This is based on anticipated strong demand for copper and other metals required for electric mobility, renewable energies, continuing urbanization and growth of the global middle class.

By contrast we have weak supply, due primarily to lower levels of exploration in recent years caused by rising costs and low discovery rates, and fewer projects in development, none of which will adequately raise production volumes in the market. Although Latin America and Chile remain home to the largest number of projects, 90 percent of the total global portfolio would need to be executed to fill the supply gap. This is unlikely given restrictions facing the industry.

Meanwhile, companies have concentrated on improving competitiveness in terms of costs and productivity, driven by new technologies such as data analytics, internet of things, digital supply chain, remote operations centers and autonomous operation of machinery.

Such technologies are finally gaining traction in the industry and enabling new advances in productivity, increasing security and potentially impacting the work environment. It is predicted that in just over a decade two thirds of the sector's workforce will work solely with data.

A new era for mining

Mining must not only take advantage of, but must star in the tech revolution that triggered the boom in renewable energies and electrification of the economy,  especially in countries where it operates. This partnership between technology, innovation and mining should forge an industry not only more productive, but more diverse in terms of its products, ultimately mitigating, compensating and hopefully eliminating its risks and negative impact.

At this turning point, mining must strive to amplify the positive effects of its presence in the countries and territories where it operates. In short, be safer, more productive, and more respectful of the environment; but also closer, more involved in its context, more transparent and therefore less reactive. Overall, more integral to the general development strategies of producing and developing countries, making them beneficiaries of our industry.

Never before have we been offered the possibility of this future narrative, less associated with digging and extracting and more linked to global sustainable development, the defeat of poverty, pollution and climate change.

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