Roque Benavides, President of Cía. de Minas Buenaventura, presented a keynote address at the PDAC’s opening session last week, entitled What Drives Success in Our Industry? Benavides outlined several initiatives that have helped the 64-year-old Peruvian precious metals producer adapt to change and succeed. One of the main things for Buenaventura is staying a step ahead of its peers by harnessing new technologies to increase resources, cut costs and solve difficult environmental problems in Peru.
The most recent is a technique developed in-house that reduces the amount of arsenic in copper concentrates, a problem that plagues copper operations in Peru and worldwide. “We already have some patents and expect to commercialize this technology soon,” Benavides told the audience.
Buenaventura had a similar metallurgical breakthrough at the Uchucchacua silver-lead-zinc mine in the mountains northeast of Lima. By developing a technology to leach manganese from high-grade silver ore, the company was able to improve the marketability of its silver concentrates and increase reserves at the mine.
The company also plans to experiment with Technosol, a manmade topsoil used in Spain and Canada for mine reclamation, when it closes the La Zanja gold mine in northern Peru. Benavides feels passionately that Peru must retain more water in the highlands to generate hydroelectricity for mining, which is often accused of monopolizing the water supply at the expense of agriculture. “It’s absurd,” he said. “We have far more water than we use. We are destroying value by allowing it to flow into the sea instead of using it to generate more energy.”
In the past decade, Buenaventura has opened three gold mines and two base metal mines in Peru, built a hydroelectric plant, and partnered in the expansion of the Cerro Verde copper mine. It is also shareholder of Minera Yanacocha, with Newmont, Latin America’s largest gold mine.