We can categorize our prospecting in two well-defined ways: metals and non-metals. In the non-metals segment, we are carrying out interesting projects, mainly in limestone and silica. These resources will allow the country to construct cement plants. We have engaged in prospecting to determine the best location to set up plants for the construction industry, and we expect to receive the first results by mid-2012. If the results are positive, we will launch cement projects of great magnitude, which is one of our goals in the non-metals sector. In silica, we are aiming to install a glass manufacturing plant, and we are in the midst of the first prospecting stages. Following the results, we will move on to the exploration stages. For these projects, we have to begin the process of obtaining the appropriate environmental licenses. The second direction of our prospecting activity is geared toward metals. We have identified some areas with huge potential in minerals such as iron sands.
Human resources is a very important issue in mining, and could be considered the main factor for the success of our projects. One challenging aspect is to find qualified human capital in the local market. Therefore, we are reinforcing our training programs, and require that all of our staff have studied beyond high school. We are also involved in technical and administrative training, and EcuaCorriente already has its first group of 30 employees that have graduated from our program, which includes training, theory, simulation, and practice. These employees have also been trained in machinery management. Currently, we are building a training center in El Pangui where we aim to train at least 100 people in machinery and resource management in 2012. In 2013, we will begin training more local people in terms of the refining phase and drilling. We also employ people at a national level, gathering the most qualified people and training them. Moreover, qualified people from China join us in carrying out certain work.
We are one of the pioneer companies that has been able to maintain itself in the country. Considering the history of the companies that were present in Ecuador 17 or 18 years ago, we are one of the few that have survived through the difficult times in mining. Our strategy has been to come to agreements in every aspect, generating a good image and concept of mining that supports the government’s efforts. Therefore, our company contributes to the government’s goal of improving the quality of life; for us, it is really important to be responsible with our investments. We aim to develop projects that are fair for every party with clear legal and economic security. These factors are very important to International Minerals and its investors. The huge mining potential in Ecuador will continue for a long time. Bearing in mind the emblematic projects in the country, the exploration stage usually lasts about 15 years. To maximize the benefits of the resource, we must begin dynamic exploration and investment.
This is the first time that Ecuador has been an attractive market for investments in mining, which entails a lot of challenges. Luckily, the government is fully supporting the industry. We are fortunate to have well-organized legislation, constitutional mining laws, and specific regulations. The government is pushing very hard to promote mining in order to offset the economic challenges the country faces. Although it is an intensive business in terms of capital requirements and operating costs, mining can help fill the investment gap that we are currently seeing in the Ecuadorean economy. Even though we are carrying out a medium-sized project in Ecuador compared to other mining countries, we are going to be the top gold mining company in the country as soon as we begin operations. Mining is going to lead business development in the future, especially for southern Ecuador. In collaboration with our Chinese colleagues at the Mirador and San Carlos projects, plus other gold projects in Azuay owned by International Minerals and INV Metals, we expect to represent 5%-6% of the country’s GDP.
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