Interview with Mario Santiago Juarez – Senior Mine Engineer

Interview with Mario Santiago Juarez, 1st Member, Senior Mine Engineer, CADIM

Mario Santiago Juarez

Born in San Juan, Argentina, Mario Santiago Juarez graduated as a mining engineer from the National University of San Juan. Throughout his career, he pursued postgraduate studies at various universities in South America such as: Univ. de San Andrés, CENTRUM Univ. Católica de Perú, Universidad de Chile, Universidad de Santiago de Chile., Univ. de Cuyo (Mendoza). With registration from the Argentine College of Mining Engineers CADIM No. 353, he currently has +26 years of experience in the mining industry, both in surface and underground mining, as well as in the oil and lithium industry.

Specialized in Mine Planning and Mine Operations and with a professional background in the most important mines in the country, his experience covers the different stages of mining, from advanced exploration, conceptual studies, Pre-feasibility, Final Feasibility, Construction, Operation and Closure of Mina. He has also worked as an independent consultant and technical advisor for different mining companies and institutions, such as: Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, de los gobiernos de la provincia de Jujuy y San Juan. He is currently a member of the commission for the implementation of the CRIRSCO regulations for the certification of resources and reserves in Argentina.

What are your views on the following? The competitiveness in the resources and reserves administration, corporate interest Vs. resources & reserves’ owners.

“This is probably the core issue of mining activity for any company and country. It is also so for all stakeholders, including communities of direct and indirect influence and others such as shareholders. Let us not forget here the environment, which we should consider as a particularly important stakeholder.
The generation of sustainable wealth in all anthropic activity should be an act of “Optimization or maximization in the use of resources” … be these of a common nature to other activities such as financing, time or people… however, in the mining activity, it is especially important to take advantage of the geological wealth in a logical way, since it takes decades to be located and developed.

In addition, we know that it must have sufficient economic value to become a mining reserve so that it can finally be mined …
Such a “Tsunami ‘of efforts, knowledge and strategies of social and market positioning, should not be left only in the hands of circumstantial local administrators of the site or subject to certain policies of corporate growth, nor should it be the target of a certain fiscal or financial ambition.
Political-partisan needs and even less, subject to the influence of a fashionable ideology … This must not happen in any way.

The present and future of the company and the mining district and its communities are tied together, they go through the cycle of mining activity together and experience the challenges and also the benefits of mining.

Leaving these aspects to chance, is in itself the product of society’s immaturity or an act of deliberate negligence with negative consequences for all stakeholders … The absence of specific regulations and governing bodies of the state or specific civil organizations, cooperates negatively in this regard. Competitiveness and the best possible use of resources are basically interrelated and in no way mutually exclusive.

Low operational efficiency, mistakes in the policies for the acquisition and use of assets, inefficient mining planning systems and management of the mining operation, people, time, safety, consumables, costs in general, the environment or Community relations directly make a poor competitiveness of the mining operation, of the company and therefore of the mining district where the activity takes place.
The present and future of the company and the mining district and its communities are tied together, they go through the cycle of mining activity together and experience the challenges and also the benefits of mining. Subjective financial evaluation premises or exaggerated risk hedging positions imply, for example: using high discount rates, greatly affecting the economic value of businesses.

On the other hand, inappropriate methods of asset and cost management, eventual personal or corporate goals, such as objectives of physical delivery committed to the market, can cause a lot of damage if they are not properly evaluated in the context of the general use of resources in the market on the long-term basis.
Retrograde or inadequate labor laws and union policies, excessive requirements for monetary contributions outside the regulations or out of context in the world, negatively impact both the mining reserves, the useful life of the mines and, ultimately, the competitiveness of the mine and the region or district.

Poor regional development of basic infrastructure of communication and transport routes, availability of energy at rates comparable with the world, among other aspects, also has an effect on the promotion or not of competitiveness. The competitiveness of the operation, the mining sector and the district or region where this occurs, is directly proportional to the use of the geological resource and the mining reserves.
On the contrary, low competitiveness performances can cause irreversible effects when “sterilizing” material with mineral content (Cutoff Grade) that could boost community and business prosperity and the entire country or region.

Not everything is NPV or IRR. There is mining, business, social, environmental and even market aspects that these indicators do not take into account properly and the lack of contextual evaluation in light of sustainability can result in lost opportunities if they are not evaluated within the framework of development. geological aspects of the site, social aspects and issues such as achieving gentler asset amortization.
More investment repayment time, better use of the existing infrastructure is compatible and synergistic with a longer stable employment time and a prolonged fiscal contribution … These would be some of the immediate effects. In the end, the so-called “Maximization in the use of resources” is a key premise of competitiveness that makes the essence of the activity, caring for nature (resources and environment) and the direct and indirect benefits of the entire chain stakeholders, including resource owners and the companies that operate them.”

Give your views on the mining industry, competitiveness and labor paradox: Workers right Vs. Automatization

“Some elementary concepts, which ideologies generally underestimate… The products of the industry are sold in a global market that responds to the natural laws of supply and demand and this specifically excludes political ideologies …

The demand
Human beings for their lifestyle and in relation to the environment demand from it, materials in a certain quantity. Providing the market with these materials with required quality attributes implies for miners to strive to achieve the required specifications.

The offer
Different parts of the world, countries, geographical districts will have, thanks to nature, the materials demanded by the market.

Who will be able to produce what the market demands and, in the quantities, and characteristics required?
After the technical attributes of the materials, what other requirements does the market have?

Let’s say that different mining producers from all these countries and / or districts are in a position to produce the materials in the required qualities, but the quantity demanded is limited…
Then the logical variable that follows is the sale price. Those producers who have the best sales prices will sell in the market and the others will only occupy the remaining demand silos.
Among the essential components of the sale price are production costs, the current tax framework, expected profitability and other geostrategic aspects that define the “goodness” of the country or mining district and the nature of the producer.
Each of the elements mentioned and even more, have unique composition structures and these structures may in turn represent specific advantages or problems specific to each mining jurisdiction. The most important components of production costs in mining are related to labor costs among others. These have numerous elements that make a mining district more or less competitive in relation to others in different parts of the world, among which we find: Salary costs proper, cost of social security, cost of union requirements, local requirements, taxes prosecutors, among others.

The current system and its inconsistencies
How much does exaggerated union requirements influence work efficiency and therefore the final cost? How much does it affect the cost of labor and the efficiency of the tasks that that labor performs, labor administrative requirements based on obsolete laws that respond to old mining technologies? How much does it help the competitiveness of companies and the useful life of the mines unions that claim for superfluous, unnecessary and sometimes even irrational working conditions?
How much does the fact that the social action of a government gives money to workers for not working, decimating the labor supply, influence the baseline of pure labor cost?
How much does the rigid edges of collective bargaining agreements conceived with the mentality of the 50s in the current era limit the professional growth of workers in a context of so-called mining 4.0?

Automation and digitization
Automation enters the mining world later than other industries; an example is car factories or self-service supermarkets that include payment for selected merchandise.
In the case of mining, this phenomenon of replacement of human workers by non-human systems, solves issues of labor required for tasks carried out in extreme conditions, such as working altitude above sea level and/or risky tasks. in underground mines, etc.

The paradox
It is a natural consequence to observe that these tasks not carried out by human workers, have a lower cost structure than that carried out by people as they do not have the associated social component, they are also effective, since they do not respond to labor and union conditioning and when phenomena disappear such as absenteeism due to illness or seasonality …

There is also no salary scale increasing by years of service … The reality seems, in the first instance, devastating for the hopes of human workers, since these advantages will not take long to be extended to other tasks always that exist or are produced justifications for this situation.

The virtue of mining so far is that it has been one of the last anthropic activities of massive labor consumption. This is changing hand in hand with the fundamental aspects that define it intrinsically and with the behavior of social actors.

The good news is that the implementation of greater automation and digitization of mining (mining 4.0) actually implies a partial replacement of human by non-human labor and rather the modern challenge is given by the need to redefine the tasks that are performed in the context of new mining.

The rotation of activities carried out by conventional miners to those carried out by new miners basically implies that miners must reinvent themselves to adapt to new technologies and subsequent tasks developing new skills and basically knowledge.

Nothing so new for this breed of production men, if we take into account that it is not the first time that this has happened, but it is enough to remember the replacement of underground mining trains by low-profile equipment and SKIPS or cages by the ramps….”

Mario Santiago Juarez

The lack of mining professionals has multiple dimensions and positions our society to challenges that must also be faced with multi-dimensional actions in order to identify opportunities from reality and mitigate its adverse effects.

What are the global effects of lack of mining professional in mining industry?

The context
A planet in need of better deals, geological resources and mineral reserves that are meager in quality and quantity, policies biased by progressive ideologies that fail to connect the reality implied by a society that requires products and another part of society that has to produce them economically and on the other hand, companies compulsively obliged to satisfy the shareholder communities and fiscal voracities of all kinds, put to the young generations front a challenged to overcome technical-socio-environmental and economic scenarios, which look little less like scaling the Everest. All this results in these generations showing minimal interest in studying and dedicating themselves to the industrial sciences of the earth.

The lack of mining professionals has multiple dimensions and positions our society to challenges that must also be faced with multidimensional actions in order to identify opportunities from reality and mitigate its adverse effects. The accentuated and growing demand for products of increasingly higher quality, with requirements for lower production costs (competitiveness), less environmental trace or footprint, etc. they imply higher levels of technology to be known and to use, it requires better operational, energy and environmental initiatives, also modern approaches to social relations, that companies and states adhere to challenging management, governance and transparency standards and practices that are radically different from the old school and therefore professional mining actors are subject to higher knowledge requirements, abilities and skills in contrast to the mere development of purely scientific-technical and economic skills of professionals in the recent past century.

Some tools to improve the context.
In the midst of the complex realities explained above, clearly the educational centers and among them the universities and technical schools, are facing an extraordinary challenge of completely redefining not only the specific curricular aspect of mining professionals, but it is also necessary to reinvent and prioritize teachers, invest in technological infrastructure and generate new social agreements with the entire educational community, just to mention some critical issues in a minimalist way and with the due license of education experts.

A profound transformation of the mining educational system is the first line of defense against the context and explained risks and the consequent situation of disinterest of the new generations.

Wakeup the interest in industrial activities and in particular in primary extractive industries, is a cyclopean task of social adaptation and improvement of the context, which can only be developed if organized society works together and in a coherent and coordinated way from primary education up to the graduate one.”

Please share your perspective on the use of water in mining industry

The global and local context
The projections of global warming are a phenomenon that’s reaches especially dramatic scales for a certain part of the continent (America).

The progressive scarcity of rainfall in all its forms will put the industries in front of extraordinary existential challenges of all kinds to be able to operate successfully and it is clear that some practices, previously considered as exceptional, such as the desalination of seawater for example, will be in a future more a rule than an exception in these desert districts.

Problems such as decreased rainfall, low snowfall, decreased glacier area, decreased aquifer recharge rate, salinization of aquifers due to over-exploitation, old irrigation methods used, high loss rates from distribution water systems, water traditional house use, contrast with poor or negligent resource’s management policies, and is part of a reality that urgently needs to change. Urgent.
The lack of sense of urgency of some private and public officials and politicians and, unfortunately, of some portion of the society, it’s the main component of the unprecedent water crisis we are facing…. and it will be worst and worst at least on the next decade.”

Where is mining progressing in the coming decade?

Growing economic, environmental, social competitiveness and exposure to natural, technological and political risks could somehow summarize the main aspects that will shape mining in the next decade.
A society and economic actors more aware of their place in the world, a generally worrisome global environmental situation, in an also growing trend of globalization of companies and investments, are part of the current scenario and of the next decade for mining.

In the immediate future, where the issues that concern us in the present such as social license, safety and operational efficiency, care for the environment, in the use of water and the need to have a high performance in energy efficiency, The relationship between companies and governments will gain fundamental relevance, since they are topics of shared interest.

Civic institutions at all levels, be they federal, provincial, municipal or community, and of all their official levels, as well as civil organizations, will be put to the final test.

The organizational capacity of civil society, the quality and relevance of its education, the adaptability, and above all the energy and integrity of its leaders, will be key to responding positively to the present and future challenges of the mining sector in order to take advantage of the benefits of the activity.”

What is the role of innovation and creativity in the mining domain?

“The focus of the development of this topic will not be a long list of topics that describe the amazing possibilities that modern technology offers today for mining.

The approach to the subject will be carried out from another more elementary point of view, the people.
The survival of modern society depends on innovation and creativity in the field of mining and how quickly and effectively these are transferred to the world of production.

However, such an appreciation contrasts with the amount of energy put in place by private organizations in working synergistically with public activity and vice versa … sometimes it gives the feeling that we are in front of the ultimate maxim of “Who can save himself.” or that “he who strikes first strikes twice”….

In general, a large part of the activity makes meager efforts to invest in technology development, leaving this only to the private initiative of the suppliers and eventually to the large mining technology centers that are already fully established, but on the other hand the industry are usually desperately expecting that technology “saves their operations” and provides them with the long-awaited numbers and KPIs that the market expects.

On the government side, it seems that they only expect more and better contributions to the treasury and that these arrive almost as if it were something that will happen anyway….
In the same way, sometimes there is the same paradoxical behavior regarding HR, regardless of their professional development range.”

The survival of modern society depends on innovation and creativity in the field of mining and how quickly and effectively these are transferred to the world of production.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the mining industry in the last two years? And where do you see it going forward?

“The mining community has been operationally overwhelmed by the first waves of the pandemic and this has not been possible without great organizational efforts and investments, adaptation of home office practices where it has been possible, and also large personnel restructuring.

With varied effects, the mining companies have undertaken the necessary changes without hesitation, accentuating both virtues and defects of the new practices, to continue advancing to meet the production’s targets committed to the market despite the pandemic. It is easier to explain a slightly higher OPEX than to justify a slightly lower production …

Like all great changes and adaptations, the people involved in them have been exposed to great stress that this reality has imposed, but it can be said that it is a great example of how to take a problem and transform it mainly into an advantage.”

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