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“Mining and the environment can coexist perfectly in a modern society”
“Mining and the environment can coexist perfectly in a modern society” “Mining and the environment can coexist perfectly in a modern society”


Press room - Interviews - “Mining and the environment can coexist perfectly in a modern society”

“Mining and the environment can coexist perfectly in a modern society”

Alonso Luján, Director of Minas de Aguas Teñidas, explained to us last April the trajectory that this mine has had up until today and the pillars on which he bases his management to make MATSA a project that is sustainable in time.

1. What is the history of MATSA?
It is a short history. The deposit was discovered in the 1980s by a team of geologists studying the Pyrite Belt that stretches along the south of the Iberian Peninsula. In the 1990s, a company was incorporated to mine it, but in 2001, after only three years in operation, the company was forced to close due to the low prices the metals were traded at back then. In 2006, the Canadian company, Iberian Minerals, bought the company and began commercial production in 2009.

2. What is the expected life cycle of this mine?
The useful reserves of the deposit were initially estimated at approx. 20 MT. In 2008, the production capacity was 1.7 MT a year, in 2010 it went up to 2.2, and in 2013 the company was authorised to raise the capacity to 4.6 million. This figure makes the mine cost-effective despite the high operating costs in Spain (i.e. electricity). In order to achieve this level of production the company spends 10 M€ a year on geological exploration.

That is how we discovered new deposits, which currently allow us to estimate the company’s resources at 100 MT. The operating cost is currently 1.4 $ per pound of copper produced, and our target is to reduce it to 1 $ per pound. Bearing that in mind, we believe that the mine has a life expectancy of 25 years, although we work with a scenario of 15 years – a forecast that we update every six months using the two reserve studies conducted every year.

MATSA currently gives direct employment to more than 2,000 people, to which we should add a similar number of indirect jobs. Eighty percent of these people live in nearby towns and villages, which obviously means a lot to their economic fabric.

Thinking ahead to the date the mine closes down, MATSA has deposited several restoration guarantees with a value of more than 13 M€ with the Regional Government of Andalusia for the restoration of the area mined. In any event, annual investments are made to gradually restore the areas mined with a clear focus on the environment and the heritage, such as the recovery of the Herreritos stream, a walking trail dating back to the Roman Era.

3. MATSA has invested more than 830 M€ in this mine since 2006. How has this investment been used?
Seventy per cent was spent on building the plant and all the infrastructure, as well as on the mine, and thirty per cent on geological research.

4. What is the life cycle followed by the material extracted at MATSA?
The extracted mineral is also processed in the plant we have here, which was specifically built for this purpose. The Minas de Aguas Teñidas’ mineral is highly sulphuric, and we therefore need to transform it into copper, zinc and lead concentrate to be able to sell it. It is transported to the ports of Huelva and Algeciras and shipped to countries like China, Brazil and northern Europe, where it is melted and used mainly to make telecommunications equipment.

5. Mining is an economic activity that does not have a very good reputation, especially due to environmental issues. What is your opinion about this?
Mining and environment can coexist perfectly in a modern society, under a sustainable working model that includes prevention and planning. Regarding environmental protection, our efforts must be aimed at establishing preventive measures, developing an environmental culture and sharing it with society. In this mine we have systems in place to monitor many aspects, such as upstream and downstream discharges, as well as tailings ponds with a safety factor of two, which is higher than the one required under current legislation.

In this regard, I should emphasise that Spain has a law that is very strict with the companies in the sector, forcing us to be constantly at the forefront in R&D. We are continuously subject to inspections and audits by the public administrations, with whom our relationship is completely transparent, just as it is with society as a whole through initiatives like our regular open-door days for the public.

6. One other aspect the administration pays particular attention to is safety. How is risk prevention managed at MATSA?
Safety is one of the cornerstones of our model of operation, which begins by creating safe conditions and developing a safety culture. Our prevention management system is based on simple points like personal contact between the process line and its supervisor, and reaching and making everyone aware of safety, which includes everyone in our organization and the people who work for us. Eighty per cent of the accidents are due to human errors, and therefore ongoing training and information is essential to continue to reduce both the accident frequency rate and the severity rate.

MAXAM Civil Explosives has been working with MATSA since the project began in 2009. They currently operate with a wide range of products, of which the upstream borehole bulk emulsion RIOMEX UP MS is worth highlighting..

Fotografía de Minas de Aguas Teñidas

Aguas Teñidas mine photography


Last update 2019.09.17
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