The history of mining in Mexico dates back to the earliest histories of the land. Gold, silver, and other metals have long been highly valued, and many of the mines operated during the Spanish centuries were originally indigenous mining operations.
Today, Mexico continues to be one of the world’s largest producers of several minerals. Mining is now the second most important industry in Mexico (second to petroleum but before tourism), and mining related activities continue to be an important component of the Mexican job market providing many levels of income opportunities.
EMPLOYMENT & OPPORTUNITIES
According to the 2018 Mexican Mining Review, the Mexican mining industry directly employed over 350,000 people and approximately 5x more indirectly in supporting businesses such as construction and service industries. Mining activity has also contributed substantially to local and regional development in Mexico. In 2014, Mexico introduced new royalties on mining activity, from which the country has establshied a “Mining Trust Fund” (“MTF”) to fund social infrastructure projects. In 2016 alone, MXP 1.74 billion was collected by the MTF. Local municipal governments are in charge of distributing 50% of the funds.
Mining investment often occurs in rural areas - regions which are largely ignored by other industries for investment and development and which have been plagued by high rates of unemployment and poverty. Not only are jobs in the mining section higher paying than many other sectors within Mexico, but also exploration and mining brings a wealth of opportunities and social benefits to small communities such as employment in construction and service industries, education, housing, electricity, roads, potable clean water, medical services, and overall improvements in the standard of living.
INVESTING IN COMMUNITIES
Today’s mining companies are owned by shareholders from around the world who demand high standards for business practice. This means that mining companies are invested in large social and community development programs. BHP Billiton, one of the world’s largest mining companies, invests one per cent of its pre-tax profits in community programs. In 2017, that 1% totalled US$80 million.
People living in rural and remote communities often have few employment options. In many cases, they also have limited access to government support and programs, and they often have to leave their communities to find work. In this way, employing local people in local projects, helps keeps communities together.
While new mining development certainly provides employment and improved infrastructure, companies also spend millions as part of internationally approved community sustainability programs which invest in local industry, education, housing and other areas. These programs are often administered by respected third party NGOs. In this way, mining brings attention, opportunity, and properity to rural communities.
MINING & THE ENVIRONMENT
Mining companies today adhere to strict environment legislation. With the increased investment in Mexico over the last decade, Mexican authorities have established new and more rigorous regulations. The Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment, Natural Resources, and Fisheries (SEMARNAT) has aligned its policies to international standards in order to ensure exploration and mining activities have a reduced impact on the environment.
Surface exploration activities generally have a very low environmental impact. If an exploration project conforms to the NOM-120-SEMARNAT-1997 (Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-120-SEMARNAT, 1997 ), SEMARNAT does not require a permit to conduct low impact surface work such as drilling. In practice, although not required under the NOM-120, many companies submit an “Informe Preventivo”, a report that states the measures that will be used by the Company to minimize environmental impacts.
Mining involves changes to the surface, just like the construction of a building and therefore requires a number of environmental permits and authorizations to conform to the statutes of the Ley General del Equilibio Ecologico y Proteccion Ambiental (LGEEPA). Before beginning mining operations, companies are required to prepare a preliminary environmental impact statement for all mining activities. In addition there are many other operating licenses and permits required to commence mining.
Mining has a very good record in Mexico of meeting and exceeding the country’s environmental legislation. For example 69 Mexican mining operations have been certified as ‘Clean Industries’, and another 24 are in the process of this certification. In the past six years the mining sector has planted 10 million trees, which makes it the third leading sector (after the Mexican Armed Forces and the lumber industry) for tree planting projects.