Ecuador's 'mining train' on track but not arriving anytime soon

Bnamericas Published: Friday, April 22, 2022
Ecuador's 'mining train' on track but not arriving anytime soon

Ecuador has among its plans for the mining sector a pipeline to take concentrates from the Amazon to ports, a mineral rail line and industrial parks, and although the initiatives are long term, there is optimism above all regarding the so-called mining train.

"I think there is still a while for the project to progress, but we definitely have it in the pipeline and we are attentive," said the regional general manager and corporate affairs manager of the Yilport terminal at Puerto Bolívar, Alfredo Jurado, during the virtual event The Port Agenda in the Development of Mining in Ecuador, organized by the country's mining engineers association AIME.

“If Yilport is interested, we could see it but not in the very short term. We can analyze it but once we see how the rules of the game are for this concession. I understand that there are several interested parties: Russians, Americans, Chinese, Spanish, French, Italians. We’re going to see what shape this takes, but it is something that is active in the transport ministry and in the presidency,” Jurado said.

Puerto Bolívar awarded a 50-year concession five years ago to Yilport, which initially expected mining exports from its terminal to start in 2026 or 2027, but they began in 2020 with 117,000t.

Last year mineral exports through Puerto Bolívar nearly tripled to 394,000t. So far this year, 171,900t have already been exported, mainly copper concentrates from the Mirador mine operated by EcuaCorriente.

The expectations are much higher for the future, said Jurado, adding that it has been an important learning curve for the company, whose origins lie in mining but in products different from those of Ecuador.

Ecuador currently has only two large-scale mines, Mirador and Lundin Gold's Fruta del Norte, but it has several projects in different stages of exploration, some of which should enter the construction stage in the coming years.

Jurado said Puerto Bolívar is currently technically well equipped to serve the mining industry, and that the company will continue to improve its equipment.

The government's plans are for the rail line to connect the Amazonian province of Zamora Chinchipe in southern Ecuador to Puerto Bolívar.

According to Jurado, Yilport is already considering where the line could connect to the port.

In photo: The Mirador copper mine

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