Zamora Chinchipe (Ecuador), Sept 18 (EFE). – Fruta del Norte, the largest gold mine in Ecuador and one of the two recently operating large-scale mining operations in the country, is behind the recent “boom” in exports.
In 2022, mining exports were among the star products sent abroad by Ecuador, with sales of more than $2.7 billion, or 2.41% of gross domestic product (GDP).
Located in the Amazonian province of Zamora Chinchipe, bordering Peru, this underground mine operated by the Canadian company Lundin Gold has a depth of up to 372 meters and proven reserves of 5.02 million ounces of gold, of which an average of 375,000 ounces are extracted annually.
This production has boosted Ecuador’s mining exports, along with the copper produced at Mirador, an open pit mine operated by Ecuacorriente, also in Zamora Chinchipe, which also opened in 2019.
Ecuador’s mineral shipments abroad have increased by 751%, from $326 million in 2019 to nearly $2.8 billion in 2022, and now rank fourth in the country’s export basket and third in non-oil products, behind shrimp (prawns) and bananas.
In the first half of this year, mining exports stood at $1.6 billion, which suggests that it will close 2023 with a figure of over $3 billion, says Juan José Herrera, Senior Manager of Sustainability of Lundin Gold Business.
DORÉ BARS AND GOLD CONCENTRATE
In Fruta del Norte, the gold contained in the mineralized rock is recovered through flotation, gravimetry and leaching methods, resulting in two products: doré bars, exported to Switzerland; and gold concentrate, sent to Germany, Finland, Bulgaria, Canada, China and Taiwan.
The gold comes from the “La Zarza” concession, which covers 5,566 hectares, 300 of which have been built – among others – the camp, workshops, the plant and the mine itself.
With a total investment estimated at nearly $1.7 billion, Fruta del Norte has a projected useful life of up to 2034, but Ron Hochstein, president and CEO of Lundin Gold, sees potential for at least half a century.
Fruta del Norte is one of the 31 concessions that Lundin Gold has, covering 64,453 hectares located mostly in Zamora Chinchipe and a small percentage in its neighbor Morona Santiago, some of which are not even being explored.
LOCAL ECONOMY ON THE RISE
The impact of the mine has not only been reflected in exports, but also in the economy of the province, generating 1,940 direct jobs and 1,114 indirect jobs.
51% of the employees are residents of Zamora Chinchipe, 40% from the rest of Ecuador and 9% are foreigners from a dozen countries.
Among the women who work at Fruta del Norte is engineer Génesis Salinas, a 29-year-old mine supervisor, who explained to EFE that since she joined the company in 2020, she claims to have experienced professional growth, as well as Maritza Reyes, 30 years old, drilling machine operator.
Dozens of meters deep, on a tour of the mine to which the agency EFE was invited, Maritza is seen operating the immense machinery, a job for which she was trained by the company, since she previously served as local secretary. of the area.
The economic figures also show that the mine will generate a total of $145 million in direct and indirect benefits for the state in 2021, and that 92% of the taxes collected in Zamora Chinchipe come from Yantzaza and El Pangui, the cantons (municipalities) where Fruta del Norte and Mirador are located.
Figures that could increase because although the average annual production is 375,000 ounces of gold, it is estimated that by 2023 it will be between 450,000 and 485,000 ounces of gold. EFE sm/fgg