The President of Chile’s Institute of Mining Engineers speaks to GBR of the current issues that Chilean engineers are facing.
What services does the institute provide?
The Institute of Mining Engineers is a non-profit, professional institute where we provide mining engineering, as well as a database all of the professional experts in mining. Our focus is on technical opinions of the mining industry and filling an important gap in the training market. We have many conferences and courses and do four to five seminars in a year. The main conference is in November and is held in a different location each year.
How would you characterize Chile’s engineering workforce in terms of education and qualified labor?
The Chilean mining engineer has a strong recognition around the world. Mining consultants agree that our technical skills are very impressive given the intensive mathematical preparation in our universities. The main companies in Chile tend to be the main companies around the world. In general, the perception of Chilean professionals is that they are very competant and very technical in mining and in other industries.
How did your institute help the laid off miners find work after the downturn?
The current status of the industry has been complex for the mining engineer in general. The Institute of Mining Engineers tries to have close relationships with our partners. Last year through the beginning of this year, we have offered a course about job placement. We invited our members to different seminars on how to create professional connections.
What kind of innovation trends have you noticed in the engineering sector?
Innovation in mining is a complex subject because companies know of the innovations, but in reality they are not able to implement them – they prefer to cut costs instead of implement innovations. No engineer, in my opinion, is trying to change this process. Mining in Chile is very traditional and traditions are hard to change rapidly. There are some companies that are starting to adapt to new technology, but the main focus of most companies has been to cut costs overall. It is important to advance in this process because there are many ways to improve overall.
How are your technical opinions published?
The Institute of Mining Engineers publishes a magazine three or four times a year about legal, technical and public opinions. Our directory contains both the mining engineers and our different members. We have two different types of members: active and associate. Our associate partners are other professionals not active in engineering.
What are the main areas of interest for 2017?
One of our main issues we need to address is Chilean smelters. It is an area we have been discussing with the mining and smelting community, and we will try to consolidate all of the research on this for the past three years and present it in an event next August. This will be a large milestone, as our opinion is quite different from the main opinions being expressed by the press. In the mining industry, we have put our main focus on building our opinion about productivity. Four years ago, a member of the Chilean Chamber of Construction stated that the productivity of a Chilean miner was only half the productivity of a Canadian or Australian miner. That was a big hit for us, and in time the government made a National Productivity Commission where they sought the advice from experts all over the world. It is our opinion that the government was not seeking the advice of the experts who were close enough to the problem. With their most recent opinion, they overlooked one very important factor impacting our productivity: the mine’s grade. Our mines have a completely different grade from mines in the rest of the world.
What is your outlook in the health of the Chilean mining industry?
The current situation is much more positive than it was last year. We see that the market is improving and we are very optimistic. If you want to be in the mining business, you must be in Chile.