Given your recent appointment, what is your vision for the Vice Ministry of Mines of Ecuador?
The Vice Ministry's objective is to manage the development of the mining sector so that it can play a bigger role in the country's development. Ecuador has the opportunity to showcase the quantity and the quality of its minerals to the world. The sector can have a huge impact on the Ecuadorian economy; therefore, we need to build a long-term vision for the mining sector and continue attracting investment. This is an opportunity to ensure that future governments can benefit from the development of the sector and its capacity to generate revenue for the country.
How would you assess the impact arising from the shift of going from small-scale mining to large-scale mining?
The change is dramatic. I personally worked on one of the projects that marked this change: the Mirador mine. I worked for its licensee, Ecuacorriente. Notably, when the project started, it took about 12 hours to get to the mine, but we worked on the infrastructure and reduced it to a threehour drive. This mine and other projects are having positive spillover effects in terms of infrastructure, employment, services, and so on. Projects are improving environmental standards to guarantee that positive effects are much higher than the environmental mark. We will be working to support more projects to move into production phase, including Río Blanco and Loma Larga, while ensuring that small-scale mining projects also get their operations started.
What timeline could we expect for the reopening of the mining cadastre?
With the support of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, the government is implementing a project that concerns the “evaluation and design of the system for granting mining concessions”. The first phase, “depuration of the mining cadaster” was concluded in 2019. The work on the project is expected to continue with other activities such as the acquisition of a digital system for the management of the cadaster, strengthening of the cadaster itself, and institutional capacity-building. We expect the cadastre to be reopen over the course of 2020.
What is your message to investors?
Ecuador is a diverse country with extraordinary resources. The objective of the government is clear: developing mining activity that meets international standards. The current mining policy can open new fields and new options, while generating trust to invest in Ecuador. Already, a number of mines being operated by world-class companies have entered the production phase. Then there are others with concessions whose exploration activities are at different phases. We want to avoid giving concessions to companies that will not invest in the long run. The government is brave to develop the sector, given anti-extractive movements, not only in Ecuador, but everywhere. We also want to see commitment from companies to face all the challenges in a responsible way. The entire country wants the mining sector to grow, and the Ministry is trying to ensure favorable conditions to develop mining activity now and in the future. Ecuador's mining sector shines, and the mines that are currently operating across Ecuador are a message to any potential investor.