Carrizal Mining is a Mexican-owned company located in Zamapan, Hidalgo. It produces lead, zinc and copper. It is committed to being a sustainable company, dedicated to the environment and the health of its human capital. Mexico Mining Review caught up with CEO Carlos Silva to ask him about these principles.
Q: Why did you decide to enter a JV with Santa Cruz Silver on the Vetagrande project in Zacatecas?
A: Carrizal is always looking for good projects. We know that the Zimapán mine has a limited life span and a low ore grade. It is not a strong growth project despite how productive and efficient we made it. But together with Santa Cruz Silver, we have around 9,000ha in Vetagrande, Zacatecas. For over half a century, this area saw just 57 small miners that could not develop the project. Together, we now own 100 percent of the property, which has a significant number of veins.We wanted to quickly develop Vetagrande. We started by implementing a diamond drilling program that hopefully will yield a high ore grade. All the mines that we will develop will be underground and high-grade. I think this project will become one of the main silver projects in the country. We will construct a plant that will start operating in 2020 and increase productivity to 2,000t/d. I think that in three years we can ramp up production to 4,000t/d. Our budget to develop the plant is US$25 million and we also estimate another US$20 million to complete the exploration of the property.
Q: What has been your personal experience with mine financing in Mexico?
A: I have been seeking financing for mine operations in Mexico for over 10 years. After knocking on countless doors, I realized that Mexico is not favorable for accessing this kind of investment; it is much easier in Toronto. We had an opportunity to access credit from FIFOMI but it was a difficult experience. When we finally got the money, we no longer required it. As a result, Carrizal Mining largely relied on our guile as resources were so scarce. But I do acknowledge that FIFOMI prepared us to comply with the highest financing requirements. If a company can meet FIFOMI’s standards, it is easier to later succeed with stock exchanges. As a result, Carrizal Silver Mining is much more institutionalized and our governance is much stronger. I advise junior companies to look beyond Mexico and reach out to foreign stock exchanges, but it is necessary to first have a well-planned project with demonstrated potential.
Q: How do you manage human capital to keep productivity up and turnover low?
A: Not all the potential of a mining project lies in its mineral reserves. For example, the Charcas project is a small operation but it offers significant potential for us in terms of talent. If we lack people at one of our major operations, we can get the human capital we need from our smaller projects. The industry competes for the best talent and we focus on this. My strategy is to develop my employees. For us, this means keeping our people with us and having a low turnover rate. Seventy-five percent of Carrizal Mining’s staff is millennial, a generation often perceived as unpredictable, yet our turnover is very low. The secret is to listen to what employees want. Millennials demand new challenges and growth opportunities. We also develop our people by contributing to their education. For example, we share expenses for Master’s programs and training. The success of Carrizal Mining’s operations lies with its people.
Q: What is the expansion outlook at Zimapán and how are you expanding the mine’s life cycle?
A: The training and further development of our people will be the key for success. We did not implement cutting-edge technology at Zimapán because Carrizal Mining had a limited budget, but we worked at highly efficient rates with the equipment we had. The focus on our people was also crucial because the returns or losses of the company were directly reflected in the gains or losses of the people of Zimapán. As for the outlook of the mine, we will carry out further exploration to get more volume elsewhere. We understand that the ore grade of the property is low but we can achieve higher volumes.
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