Interview: Mark Cutifani

What are the short- and medium-term expectations of metal demand in global markets?

MARK CUTIFANI: On the back of positive consumer sentiment and reasonably supported demand growth, the outlook for metal products is positive for 2019. In 2018 refined copper consumption grew by around 3%, with strength in the construction, transportation and engineering sectors underpinning this demand. Additionally, tighter environmental restrictions affected copper scrap imports into China, contributing to growth in apparent refined demand.

Copper itself is a key product that supports modern living and it will be in high demand as we move towards a greener, more electrified world. With sound market fundamentals, copper is widely used in wiring, electronics, electric cars and wind turbines.

How can the industry implement cutting-edge and disruptive technological solutions in its processes?

CUTIFANI: Innovation in mining has traditionally meant scaling up in order to increase capacity. The industry has expanded significantly with larger mine sites and heavier trucks, however, the amount of energy being put into this expansion is unsustainable. Furthermore, in terms of reducing its energy, water and land usage requirements, there are opportunities to improve the industry’s footprint. In the future there will be mines that basically do not have footprints.

While efficiency is automatic, we are convinced that precision is key to targeting specific metals or minerals, resulting in a significantly more efficient process that requires fewer inputs.

What are the regulatory hurdles for greenfield mining projects and how do environmental regulations compare to those of neighbouring markets?

CUTIFANI: We are respectful of the laws and regulations of every country. We understand that there are conditions related to the promotion of private investment that vary from one country to another, but in the end companies have come to expect a level of predictability for their investments.

Peru has a number of advantages that are attractive to global mining investment, including remarkable geological potential; an economy with sustained growth; a robust fiscal policy; a well-established mining industry; clear policies; and effective regulatory framework. At the same time, challenges like social crisis management and prevention, and social inequality are among the most visible in the country. Land access and propriety registration is another issue that can cause social unrest. Additional challenges include the high expectations generated by the presence of a private enterprise in areas where government services have not yet been fully developed.

From a regulatory viewpoint, the sheer number of permits required coupled with the time they can take to be granted are a considerable hurdle. Large-scale mining projects, for example, require between 400 and 500 permits – some of them with so many details that they become 35,000-page documents. It would be helpful to integrate certain permits and procedures, thereby optimising processes and shortening deadlines. In addition, the timeline for permit acquisition would be condensed if official baseline information of the areas to be covered was accessible.

How can new technologies improve sustainability and environmental standards in large mining sites?

CUTIFANI: The exponential growth of new and emerging technologies is enabling a wave of mining innovation. Technologies such as microwave and plasma preconditioning of rock, data science, 3D printing, sensor technology, nanotechnology and quantum computing are creating new pathways to more precisely target metals and minerals. This will be done with radically less waste, lower water and energy inputs, as well as with a smaller physical footprint.