Why did you decide to become activists on behalf of the mining industry?
I chose mining as a starting point after having read the following from America’s great teacher, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento: “The mines are a factor of development for the towns as they civilize and populate them at the same time.”
Civilization, knowledge, and culture are synonyms for development, and development involves all aspects of the community. Along with economic investment comes great infrastructure projects that benefit the whole population. Professionals from all over come to make their experience, along with a specialized workforce, available, which over time, allows locals to be trained to start working in the mines.
Could you please explain the development of Radio Estación Minera?
Radio Estación Minera is the only station in San Juan directed towards the productive mining sector. It features programs and guests related to the mining activity in the province and the community. It is also relevant to the general public to educate, spread information, and interact between it and the sector. Knowledge is the most important tool for the human race, and the radio seeks to make knowledge a reality. It is a generator of opinion, and has an educational/cultural profile dedicated to spread the word about and support mining activity, transmit, and educate in uses and benefits of mining in our lives. We hope to be able to open people’s minds and hearts and broaden the community’s vocabulary so they can express what they have inside, and make it so every guest has infinite value.
Keeping in mind your relationships with the mining communities in San Juan, what would you like multinational companies in Argentina to know about getting closer to the local community?
Local communities need us to be close by. They need the companies to go up to them, introduce themselves, commit, meet their people, and learn their names and customs now that they are going to be neighbors. I think that each company and state should positively and actively intervene in a joint effort and draw up an agreement with every community. They need to reach a constitutional agreement to shed light on and take social peace to every corner of the nation.
Can you please tell of a specific moment where listening to the needs of the community stifled the conflicts that were impeding mining productivity?
Calingasta is a safe small community with only a few inhabitants which basically lives off of tourism. I could see both the strengths and weaknesses that Barreal had as an emerging tourist destination, and that is how we were able to see that the biggest concern of the people living there was not tourism, nor was it the profits that could come in, but they were concerned about what the young people would do after finishing school since there were not many options available for them there.
After a few meetings about how to find a way out for these young people, and after having lived there for a few days, I saw that the best thing they had was their natural environment. They were able to set up a high ropes course, rafting, mountain climbing, trekking, and mountain biking activities. Today, many of those young people are entrepreneurs of inns, cabins, ropes courses, or as waiters in the local restaurants. Each of them found a place to fit in. As a community we should work so that mining does not put us in danger, and it gets involved in other productive sectors, such as tourism.
How important is the mining industry for the development of San Juan’s local economy, and what would you like the members of the community to know about the importance of its potential?
The mining industry is the most important activity for our local and provincial economic development. San Juan has incalculable mining capital. Eighty percent of our territory is mountainous, and our geographical location impulses and obliges us to see mining as our main source of development and source of genuine wealth. However, the lack of investment for exploration and extraction, along with the lack of adequate infrastructure and a specialized workforce are factors that still prove to limit us. These factors made the efforts to try to convert San Juan into an agricultural-mining center fail. I think that the commitment of our government today is to invite people to invest in San Juan, and the results will be able to be seen shortly after.
Mining growth depends on all of us, and social license comes with responsibility, safety, and professionalism. We should defend our activity with San Juan pride, liberty, and loyalty since this is the activity that has given us development, work, and what gave our dignity back to us. That being said, the companies who want to come, invest, and work on our land should also commit themselves with the spread and defense of the activity.
How can the government make its communication with the communities and on an international level better within the mining industry?
I think the province of San Juan, and more specifically the Mining Ministry, should be more committed to the community of San Juan. They should get out on the streets, participate in fairs, seminars, and events related to the activity. The government should also have a more effective educational relationship to communicate information about the mining activity and the way it develops in our province. They should demonstrate with numbers the benefits that mining gives us along with the impact it has on our lives.
I also think that the state should design surveys and interviews, not only to captivate our local community, but also the international community. These surveys and interviews would discover which and how many businesses, mining providers and contractors that are 100 percent from San Juan, who are still in San Juan betting on a global-level reality. I think it is necessary have reliable information before making decisions.
Please provide a final message for the international mining community about San Juan as an investment destination.
We know that the province of San Juan has led and continues to lead the Argentinian mining sector, containing the majority of the biggest projects, and offering excellent business opportunities. Argentina is an important mining destination and San Juan is the province for excellence. The investors and providers of goods and services have found a favorable environment to flourish in the province. Once we get through the resolution stage of government policies, we are going to be able to have sustainable growth for decades. We are anxious for your arrival, all are invited to invest, and you can count on rightful conditions and our commitment.