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The Uruguayan mining sector has positive growth expectations thanks to increased activity levels that will allow it to grow more this year than in the last six years, an official from Uruguay's national mining and geology department Dinamige told BNamericas.
According to Dinamige director Felipe Puig, the sector should already be at the same levels as those found before the mid-2002 mining crisis.
With respect to non-metallic mining, sales of rocks such as amethyst and agate are experiencing healthy growth. Contacts were made in Brazil to use that country to open up new markets and sell the rocks to China, the US, Spain, and India. "That project is moving along well," said Puig.
Amethyst production levels in 2003 arrived at 383t, a 174% jump over 2002 levels of 140t. Sales for 2003 were US$446,000, up from US$279,000 in 2002.
Agate production levels in 2003 were 5,342t, a 43% increase over 2002 production, while 2003 sales were US$843,000, a 58% hike compared to 2002's figures.
With respect to marble, Puig said that the country was looking to make the quarried rock more competitive, adding: "There are already some plants and quarries being reactivated, and so the marble and rock issue is picking up pace."
However, total non-metallic mineral production posted 2003 levels of 4.3Mt in Uruguay, a 22% drop compared to 2002 levels of 5.5Mt.
There is also a Brazilian company mining quartz for metallic silicon production.
Puig also pointed to high expectations due to the discovery of kimberlites and other minerals associated with diamonds in some parts of the country.
The official also said that there were high expectations for metallic mining, especially for nickel in the San José department where exploration has produced good results. "But as with everything in mining, that takes time," he explained.
The current energy crisis affecting the country should not affect mining growth, he added.
Within the next two weeks Dinamige will turn over operations of the México black granite quarry in Flores department to a private company. In the meantime it is advancing on paperwork to have the industry, energy and mining ministry, of which Dinamige is part, to sign the agreement.
The auction of dolomite deposits at the Valencia mine in the southeast Lavalleja department is behind schedule as the tender specifications have yet to be signed by the country's president.
"As soon as they are approved, bidding will begin within one month," Puig said.