In a global landscape where change is constant and environmental and social demands are increasing, the mining industry faces unprecedented challenges. To delve deeper into international implications and Ausenco's strategy to support clients, we spoke with Claudio Lesch, executive president of minerals and metals.

The Geopolitics of Critical Minerals

Claudio opened the discussion by highlighting the current impact of geopolitical and economic factors on mining sector operations and investment projects. Many countries are focused on the growing importance of critical minerals for the green-energy transition, defense systems, and other high-tech applications, as well as the vulnerability to supply constraints. "China, was one of the first countries to recognize the importance of critical minerals by deploying significant investments into Africa and Latin America through its state-owned enterprises, playing a fundamental role in the minerals and metals industry," explained Lesch.

He added that, "undoubtedly, there is a geopolitical competition around critical minerals, a trend that is on the rise. In 2022, the US launched the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) which offers incentives for mining projects, including tax credits and loan incentives, that help finance projects. The same is happening in Canada, where the government is backing mining companies, and in Chile, where lithium has become a strategic issue on the national agenda."

As a key response to this challenge, Lesch commented on the importance of adjusting companies' development strategies to the specific conditions of each country, considering their regulatory system, government incentives, and local environment. "To develop higher-quality projects and take advantage of incentives, mining companies must be flexible and adapt to the realities of each market," he noted.

Energy Transition: demands and opportunities

The energy transition creates demands for the mining industry but also opportunities for development and innovation. "Companies must be prepared to meet the high demand for critical minerals needed for clean technologies,” affirmed Lesch. "It is necessary to take a holistic approach and carefully consider growing challenges in terms of communities and ESG, as well as the need to streamline permitting processes to bring projects into production more efficiently," he emphasized.

Lesch described the fundamental role that Ausenco assumes in guiding mining companies through the energy transition. "Our company offers a wide range of services that help companies develop projects with a lower carbon footprint and full respect for the environment and communities. We are deeply committed to sustainability and believe that the mining industry can play a crucial role in building a more sustainable future," he concluded.

Strategic Partnerships: The key to success

For Lesch, Ausenco's value lies in its holistic approach and ability to deliver smart solutions for its clients. "We take a broader view across the entire lifecycle of a project and with our comprehensive suite of services, our experts can advise clients on anything from ESG, environment and regulations to water management or technical support. We also have the capacity and proven track-record to execute large projects efficiently and safely."

Lesch went on to emphasize Ausenco's commitment to its corporate values and focus on sustainable development. "We have even turned down projects that did not align with these principles. We believe in building partnerships with our clients that transcend the project itself. This ultimately contributes to more collaborative design and execution planning and an outcome everyone can be proud of.”