Latin America – poised for opportunity to meet the world’s demand for critical minerals with responsible sourcing
Latin America – poised for opportunity to meet the world’s demand for critical minerals with responsible sourcing
News > Latin America – poised for opportunity to meet the world’s demand for critical minerals with responsible sourcing
Latin America – poised for opportunity to meet the world’s demand for critical minerals with responsible sourcing
| T 9 minutes to read

Wendy Tyrrell, Executive Director, DPI Mining

Insights and perspectives from Encuentro Latinoamericano De Mineria (ELAMI) 2023

The world is embarking on a major energy transition and the new circular economy of metals and minerals is gathering momentum. We are also coming to grips with the reality that to meet the world’s energy needs, we will need to explore and mine metals and minerals at levels that have never been contemplated.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast that even if we maximise recycling, the world will still need to grow the production of key metals by four times. Under their most ambitious scenario, six times 2020 production will be needed by 2040 to hit net zero globally by 2050 and to come close to reaching 1.5oC.

Copper is a key metal needed for transmission and for electric vehicles. Nickel, lithium, cobalt, manganese, and graphite are important for batteries which in turn are necessary for electric vehicles. Metals are needed for renewable energy, including wind and solar. Rare earth elements are also critical.

Latin American countries have a crucial role in the coming energy transition. The IEA has recognised Latin America as a major producer of critical metals and a source of minerals for the future. For example, the region produces 40% of the world’s copper and 35% of global lithium, led by Chile.

Resource-rich producer countries now and in the future include Peru, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina. Aside from copper and lithium, mineral resources across Latin America run their way through the periodic table, including iron ore, aluminium, graphite, nickel, manganese, and rare earths.

What reality do I see?

Over several decades, I have been fortunate in my travels in mining regions to experience first-hand the warmth, hospitality, and culture of people in Latin American countries including in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and now Panama. My experience has been that people broadly want to see genuine prosperity, education, healthcare, a clean and safe environment, meaningful work, and hope for the future for themselves and their families. Communities are also looking for respect, the dignity of opportunity, and to participate meaningfully in decision-making that affects them.

There are challenges faced by communities, governments, and companies living and working across the region. On one hand, there are hundreds of years of Latin American mining experience. There is much to celebrate. There are examples of countries in Latin America (and across the world) where governments and companies have worked in genuine ways to bring long-term benefits to communities from mining.

The work of Owen et al. 2023 has shown that globally, most energy transition metals of the future are located on the lands of indigenous peoples and land-connected peoples, including in Latin American countries. Across Latin America, putting communities and indigenous peoples at the centre of responsible resource development is becoming more important.

Conversely, it will be difficult to meet the world’s energy needs while complex tensions and conflicts persist, inflamed by social inequalities, lack of access to opportunities, environmental and other pressures.

DPI Mining believes in mining’s contribution to a better future

The Development Partner Institute (DPI Mining) has been working since 2017 to connect, co-create and catalyse projects and people across the mining value chain. Our work has two main aims:

- to unlock transformative potential towards sustainability; and

- to accelerate mining’s contribution to a better future for all stakeholders.

At DPI Mining, we believe that bringing the perspectives of indigenous people, young people, and women – where they have not traditionally been part of the conversations – opens the door to a different future. We accomplish our goals by:

- leading multi-stakeholder dialogues and activities, working towards an ethical mining value chain with RESCO, the Responsible Sourcing Coalition.

- engaging from grassroots to boardrooms and co-creating new solutions for region-specific challenges with our Country Catalyst process, shaping national and international directions.

- championing the next generation of innovators and connecting them to funding and strategic partners through global competitive events like the Mining and Innovation Research Battlefield.

- providing regular comment and thought leadership on the future of the mining industry and the mining value chain.

Who is in the mining value chain?

At the core of the mining value chain are communities and Indigenous peoples, with mining companies across the spectrum from large to small, and their contractors and suppliers. Governments at all levels are important. At either end of the value chain, we see demands for responsibly sourced minerals and metals. Financial contributors – public and private investors and banks, play a vital role. Companies that use the products of mining - metal producers, automakers, computer makers, construction, infrastructure, and renewable energy are rapidly expanding their interest in how responsibly produced the ingredients of their value chains are. Others including sectors such as agriculture and tourism and civil society organisations are also important contributors.

It is worth rounding this out with a note that Indigenous people and communities must have “full, meaningful representation and participation in decision-making processes at all levels affecting their territories, governance and families” as was stated at the recent UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in April 2023. There are also new and interesting business models being built with creative ways to enable community participation and equity in mining and related projects.

Catalysing change from the source

As miners look to slash production costs amid market volatility, while simultaneously advancing new projects at speed, investment in ways to solve long-standing issues makes sense.

Development partnership is at the core of successful problem-solving, approaching mining in fresh ways by bringing together stakeholders who often haven’t worked together before. We know that this type of collaboration works well, using our proven Development Partner Framework. We strongly believe there is huge potential and exciting rewards to come for those who are willing to collaborate in new ways in Latin America.

So, co-creating the future with people from across the value chain is the crucial foundation. We can start small - bringing communities, young people, and Indigenous peoples into conversations about the future of responsible sourcing.

Together, we can realise the vision of a transparent, inclusive and global development-centred mining industry.


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