How would you estimate Ecuador's potential in terms of mining, and what is your role in the exploration process?
Ecuador has always been considered attractive for its geological resources. Moreover, it generated great expectations and interest in the international mining sector due to legal reforms, policies, and incentives. IIGE is developing the Geological Research and Availability of Mineral Resources Occurrences in the Ecuadorian Territory, which aims to create and update geological maps on a 1:100,000 scale and maps of mineral occurrences on a 1:50,000 scale, which is relevant information in order to determine the real geological potential and provide useful information to all stakeholders.
In general, what is the primary mandate of IIGE, and what are your main activities?
IIGI is the successor of INIGEMM, bringing all the competencies to this new institution. It did not lose its essence of research focused on the geological-mining sector; on the contrary, it was reinforced with the experience of the former National Institute of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (INER). With the creation of IIGE, scientific research in earth sciences has been strengthened, improving institutional capabilities and generating a specialized human and technical resource, with greater scope for scientific work, technological development, and local innovation. Our mission is to generate and promote knowledge in the fields of geology and energy, through scientific research, technical assistance, and specialized services for the responsible use of renewable and non-renewable resources, contributing to decision making for the benefit of society.
What is the economic significance of mining operations for the secondary industries around your mining project, for example for the local supply chain and offset for SMEs?
Responsible mining projects stimulate local economies with the creation of small businesses and entrepreneurship in order to satisfy the needs of the mining industry. In October, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Richard Martinez, presented the credit, investment, and employment prosperity plan with the participation of the country's public financial institutions to encourage investment amongst large and small companies, in which both metallic and non-metallic mining activities should be immersed. The program will allocate USD650 million in loans for 2018 and USD741 million in 2019. Industry, services, commerce, exports, forestry, and stock will benefit from this program.
How have you incorporated environmental sustainability into your geological surveys?
Exploratory works carried out by IIGE seek to create a balance and a harmonious relationship between the technicians of the institution, society, and nature. This implies achieving development results without threatening the sources of our natural resources or compromising those of future generations. Geological research projects are a basic and necessary information tool in order to acknowledge the potential of the use of the soil and the existing geological resources. The geological work is also required in order to help decision makers carry out policies and programs according to the real characteristics of the national territory and promote responsible planning.
What are your expectations of the impact of the new investment law on the mining industry?
Mining is a long-term activity that will outlast governments and different political, legal, and economic situations. In this manner, the new law is definitely an invitation to consider Ecuador as an attractive destination for investment, though there are also other conditions that must be guaranteed, for example the opening of the Mining Cadaster. Regarding cooperation between national and international institutions, we consider it fundamental for the promotion of the country and the exchange of research activities and knowledge. We have developed several research projects with the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI), the Geological Mining and Metallurgical Institute of Peru (INGEMMET), and the Argentine Mining Geological Service (SEGEMAR), to name a few.