Chile retakes top LatAm spot in mining exploration

Bnamericas Published: Monday, January 16, 2023
Chile retakes top LatAm spot in mining exploration

Mining exploration budgets in Chile increased 30.2% in 2022 to US$713mn, mainly due to the lifting of restrictions related to COVID-19 and the high prices of copper, gold and lithium, according to state copper commission Cochilco.

As a result, the country resumed its leadership for exploration in Latin America, after being surpassed by Mexico in 2021. Globally, Chile ranked fourth behind Canada, Australia and the US, Cochilco said in a report.

Last year, 88 exploration companies were registered in Chile, the majority being Canadian or Australian. Of these, 76 were juniors, seven medium-sized firms and five state or other companies.

Cochilco said 217 exploration projects were identified in different stages of progress, with 52.5% being copper-focused, followed by gold (28.1%) and lithium (9.7%).

More than 51% of the projects reported active exploration last year, while 44.2% did not report progress and 4.1% were withdrawn.

Although the Cochilco report does not give the reasons for those not progressing, players in the sector point to greater difficulty in obtaining environmental permits as a factor.

Philippe Hemmerdinger, president of the association of industrial mining suppliers in Chile, spoke to BNamericas recently about the risk of wasting mining potential and the importance of motivating investment along with project approvals to take advantage of the historic opportunity that climate change brings with the development of electromobility and renewable energies.

On the other hand, Manuel Viera, former president of the Chilean chamber of mines and current CEO of mining engineering company Metaproject, commented on Monday in his LinkedIn account that the "hurdles" for mining would be rejections and excessive permits to new projects, as well as the increase in the tax burden that the new royalty bill would bring.

According to Cochilco, 93% of exploration projects are in the north, led by Atacama region with 96 prospects, followed by Antofagasta region with 46 and Coquimbo with 31.

The high prices of metals caused by increased global demand behind the energy transition, will continue to be incentives for exploration, Cochilco said.

The full report can be seen here, available only in Spanish.

Chile is the world’s largest copper producer.

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