Interview: Kelvin Dushnisky
How competitive is the local mining industry, and what reforms are necessary to boost activity?
KELVIN DUSHNISKY: We believe that Colombia has an opportunity to encourage diversification in largescale mining, which until now has largely been focused on coal. While Colombia is a relatively new location for large-scale mining projects, the country is making steady progress in establishing regulatory reforms to help utilise the significant potential that exists in our vast mineral reserves, which include gold, copper, nickel and silver deposits. In order to do so in a sustainable way, it is important for all stakeholders involved – the government, regulators, mining companies, communities and labour groups – to engage in extensive dialogue around responsible mining and its socio-economic benefits.
The industry can offer benefits to a wide range of stakeholders if the right structure is in place. Colombia has an opportunity to develop and implement a competitive legislative framework and tax regime for the mining sector that can attract the inward investment necessary to develop the country’s rich mineral deposits in a responsible way. As part of these efforts, benchmarking policies against those in other mining jurisdictions could serve as a valuable method of ensuring competitiveness. Furthermore, a streamlined licensing process, including multi-stakeholder engagements, would support the responsible development of mineral resources.
What are the best ways to combat illegal practices, and promote the growth of artisanal mining?
DUSHNISKY: Illegal mining remains a challenge for the industry across the world. It is clear that this is an important issue that requires close attention from all stakeholders to ensure the significant social and environmental risks are reduced.
The formalisation of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is crucial to the development of a responsible, inclusive and safe mining sector that respects environmental standards, fulfils its obligations to all stakeholders – including local communities and the government – and also pays tax.
There are initiatives in place to combat this issue and create the potential for formalised ASM activity with the necessary regulations in place to ensure that it can coexist with large-scale mining. It is important for the industry to employ the latest technologies and environmental protections, and to establish better cooperation between government, mining companies and local communities.
What steps can be taken to enable the mining sector to develop in the future?
DUSHNISKY: We believe that Colombia has gained experience from the past and is now able to take the lead in charting a new path forward for the mining sector. This is shown by the reforms currently under way, which have reinvigorated the industry. For example, the percentage of royalties allocated to regional authorities has increased and is now divided evenly with the national government.
Responsible mining will be an important part of Colombia’s long-term economic growth, as well as a key part of the government’s strategy to source funding for the development of infrastructure, agriculture, education, security and other sectors that will require state investment.
The country’s wealth of natural resources have the potential to be used to develop communities at both the local and regional level. In order to do so, mining companies and governments must work together to understand the unique requirements that each community has in terms of their own development, and to ensure that unlocking natural resources can support those objectives over the long term. It is only when we strike that balance that we will create a truly sustainable industry for the long term.
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