As one of the world’s leading producers of copper, iron ore and lithium, Latin America’s (LATAM) contribution to the global mining sector is already well established. Yet, with considerable reserves of many critical minerals required to support green energy technologies, the opportunity remains for the region to continue to grow its mining production and influence.
“If you consider the diversity of resources, the calibre of local and international mining companies operating there, and the innovation and expertise that exists within the region, it’s clear that LATAM will remain a dominant force in mining for some time to come,” explains Bruno Tolosa, a Principal for Gerard Daniels. “The production of critical minerals to support clean energy and the adoption of decarbonisation technologies will also help to foster job creation, innovation, economic growth and diversification, which will be of great benefit to the Latin American people and their communities.”
As a Brazilian national now residing in London, Bruno takes pride in the LATAM region’s growing global influence. Here he explores the LATAM mining sector’s response to the green energy transition; the economic and community impact this transition is having; and how it is shaping the talent emerging from the region.
Leading the green energy transition
LATAM has been at the forefront of the green energy transition for some time, both in terms of the production of critical minerals and metals for clean energy, and in the adoption of technologies to decarbonise mining operations.
“In terms of critical minerals, Chile is the largest copper producer in the world and in 2021 LATAM collectively accounted for 40% of global copper production,” Bruno explains. “This region also has more than half of the world’s Lithium reserves – an essential metal for electric vehicles and energy storage – with Argentina and Chile currently ranked as two of the world’s largest producers.”
LATAM’s abundance of wind and sun has also allowed it to lead the adoption of decarbonisation technologies in mining. And as mining organisations increasingly integrate sustainable energy solutions, the impact is lowering the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, reducing operating costs and diminishing the reliance on fossil fuels.
“There are now many examples of sustainably powered mining operations in this region,” says Bruno. “The large-scale solar plant developed by a Chilean company to supply 64MW of clean energy to one of the largest copper mines in the world, is just one example that stands out. Other sizeable mining projects in Brazil, Peru and Panama also have plans to develop solar and wind capability to sustainably power their substantial operations.”
Shaping economies and communities
The adoption of green energy and decarbonisation technologies is creating diverse and positive change across LATAM, shaping the economy and significantly improving the environment and living standards in the region.
Environmental protection and sustainable development
The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and water contamination are some of the most important effects of the region’s response to the green energy transition.
“LATAM’s commitment to reduce the environmental impact of mining is contributing to the preservation of vital ecosystems, biodiversity and the overall environmental health of the region. Sustainable mining practices also integrate social, environmental and economic considerations, promoting long-term viability and responsible resource extraction,” says Bruno. “In turn, these practices have allowedLATAM to play a critical role in addressing the global climate crisis and improving quality of life for local communities – particularly those in proximity to mining operations.”
The impact of growing critical mineral production and the adoption of sustainable energy practices can also be seen in the creation of new roles and leadership opportunities. “Renewable energy projects require skilled labour for installation, operation and maintenance, which is boosting employment and creating new training and apprenticeship opportunities in LATAM,” says Bruno.
“Designing and delivering on energy transition and decarbonisation strategies also requires strong, future-focused leaders, and we are increasingly seeing highly capable and experienced leadership talent emerging from this region and moving into senior global roles,” he continues. “Where the LATAM region of my childhood looked to the rest of the world for leadership, in many ways this region is now leading the way.”
Innovation, research and the development is being accelerated in the LATAM region, through the development of green energy projects and technologies. This in turn is creating the need for specialist expertise, particularly around engineering, manufacturing, environmental management and in the scaling up and distribution of green energy and decarbonisation technologies.
Economic diversification in LATAM countries is currently being driven by the production of critical minerals and metals, and growing investment into green energy technologies and infrastructure. “By reducing the dependence on fossil fuels and other imports from volatile markets, LATAM’s response to the green energy transition is promoting economic stability in the region” says Bruno. “This shift is also helping to attract more global investment into the LATAM mining sector, and to foster a more resilient energy sector.”
Energy cost reduction
The growing adoption of solar and wind technologies has improved the cost competitiveness of these energy sources. “Any reduction in cost serves to benefit the competitiveness and performance of mining operations in the region,” says Bruno. “The benefits of energy cost reduction can also be passed onto communities.”
International reputation and market access
According to Bruno, the enhanced international reputation of LATAM’s mining sector is another significant, but often overlooked benefit of the region’s green energy and decarbonisation response.
“Latin American countries are demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible mining practices, attracting responsible investors and fostering valuable international partnerships,” he says. “There are also global markets that prioritise the sourcing of materials from companies and regions that adhere to green standards, and access to these markets can provide additional economic opportunities for the LATAM region.”
The flow of talent to and from Latin America
Gerard Daniels continues to grow its global team and expand its global talent network to deliver exceptional leaders to clients operating in this region. “As the needs of the LATAM region change, our talent networks within and emerging from this region also continue to evolve,” says Bruno.
“As is true of all major mining regions, expertise to support the green energy transition is in strong demand. From a talent perspective, LATAM’s role in advancing the energy transition has equipped many leaders from this region to meet the needs of the rapidly changing global mining sector,” says Bruno. “As the mining sector is still changing and learning a lot in terms of how it can operate sustainably, there will also continue to be opportunities for experienced global leaders to bring their expertise to LATAM.”
Reach out to connect with Bruno, or contact your local Gerard Daniels team to discuss your executive search and board consulting needs.