Feb. 4, 2015

The Hon. Pelegrín Castillo Semán

Dominican Republic

The Hon. Pelegrín Castillo Semán

Minister of Energy and Mining, Dominican Republic


Pelegrín Castillo Semán graduated as a lawyer in 1978 and is the Minister of Energy and Mining of the Dominican Republic. He assumed this post after a successful 20 year run in Congress, where he was elected for five consecutive terms since 1994. During his congressional career, Minister Castillo was recognized as one of the most active legislators, holding the record for having both drafted and getting approval for his projects. He was nominated for president in 2012. Mr. Castillo was part of the Commission of Jurors for Constitutional Reform, has been Vice-President of the Union of Latin American Political Parties (UPLA) and is currently the Vice-President of his political party, the Fuerza Nacional Progresista (FNP).

What steps is the Ministry of Energy and Mining taking to help the Dominican Republic take full advantage of its mineral potential?

In many ways the Dominican Republic is a mini continent unto itself. It possesses an amazing diversity of renewable and nonrenewable resources, in both metallic and non-metallic mining. We now have greater knowledge than before of our mineral potential, thanks to the SYSMIN (System of Stabilization of Export Earnings from Mining Products) Cooperation Programme of the European Union, which provided us with multiple geological and resource referenced maps, covering approximately 96% of the territory. It is a privilege for our Geological Service to hold so much information. As a newly-created ministry we are engaged in generating our initial strengths as defined by our strategic plan. As a key part of our agenda, we will seek to improve the overall management of the industry, and the defense of public interests, raising the standards of regulation and control, and to increase our arbitration capacity as a means of obtaining social licenses and attracting more qualified investments. We are integrating a highly qualified professional team and establishing partnerships with national and international institutions for the training of our human resources, and establishing new standards for exceptional service for potential investors. In 2015, we hope to promote a multi-sectorial consultation to improve the legitimacy of mining activities, and we hope to address important issues such as the definition of investment objectives, which must be financed with mining revenues. We must also finish the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative), and establish a “win-win-win" strategy where the state wins, the enterprises win, and so do the communities. We are also engaged in reviewing and updating aspects as important as establishing the cost of exploration patents, expediting and providing further reliability to the Mining Cadastre, formalizing and adding value to small-scale and community mining, and simplifying legal proceedings of concessions to mining companies.

What initiatives is the Ministry undertaking to overcome expensive imported fossil fuels and an inability to purchase power from neighboring countries?

The Ministry promotes an energy security agenda that has a strategic goal: to reduce the dependency on imported fossil fuels, should we not achieve self-sufficiency. We are focused on simultaneously boosting oil exploration on land and at sea, and also on the state's promotion of renewable energy.

What is your view on the transformation of the energy sector in the Dominican Republic and what are your prospects for the future of clean technologies and renewable energy production in the drive for increased economic growth?

The energy sector in the Dominican Republic must undergo major changes, especially in the electricity subsector. Already the government has arranged a great Electrical Pact, as required by the National Development Strategy. This would entail a change in the nature of Dominican capitalism, as well as the rules of governance of public companies. Our aim is for management to be transparent, efficient, results-oriented, and de-politicized. We also deem it a high priority to ensure the conversion of the Electric Park to natural gas, although this cannot be done without new infrastructure development policies and regulation of international standards that ensures access to third parties, neutrality, efficiency, and security in the installation and operation of terminals and pipelines. We believe in developing a network of pipelines on the southern coast, and also in the creation of an energy hub that includes terminals in the Northern region, preferably in the area of Manzanillo, near the border with Haiti. This last point would be of strategic value for us, Haiti, and for the entire region. The border area also has optimal conditions to become a renewable energy generation area as it has the best solar radiation regime, great wind resources, and significant potential for marine energy. Marginal lands owned by the state will be used for the production of biofuels and biomass.

Could you talk through the main points of the National Energy Plan 2010-25?

The government's energy efficiency and savings plan is focused on achieving significant energy savings in the public sector with the use of various technologies, both in terms of fuel and electricity. In 2015, we will have an energy efficiency and government savings law that will give access to this policy to the entire society. We aim to substantially increase the country's fuel storage capacity, which is crucial in some categories. With a consumption of 140,000 barrels a day, it makes sense to increase the country's refining capacity and take advantage of our geographical location and become a center of storage, processing, mixing, and regional and international distribution.