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'Junior miners' playing an important role in Latin America
25/05/2012 - Latin America's promising exploration opportunities and established mining culture is making the region an ever more attractive prospect for Australia's explorers. Caroline Smith
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While major miners such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have operated in the region for decades, it is increasingly junior explorers who are entering the fray in search of mineral wealth.
Austrade Growth and Emerging Markets general manager David Landers said smaller companies were set to play an important role in establishing new frontiers in Latin America.
"There's a critical mass of Australian mining related companies that have been operating in these countries for some time," he said.
"They call it the silent industry, because this activity has been going on for some time now, but it's more a perception issue - people haven't seen it, haven't felt it, haven't heard it.
"I expect that the primary driver will be the juniors - once they get in there and prove things up, that's when the non-Latin American majors will get even more active."
Paydirt Media's inaugural Latin America Downunder conference - held on May 22 and 23 - aimed to respond to this interest, attracting 320 delegates, with speakers from both major and junior companies alike.
Australia-Latin America Business Council chairman Jose Blanco said the region's mineral riches - including 44 per cent of the world's copper and silver reserves - had spurred on stronger investment from numerous other countries.
"For quite a number of years now, the global expenditure budget for exploration has seen close to 20-25 per cent go to the Latin American region," he said.
"The 'established' markets are, Chile, Peru and Brazil - but there are good and growing opportunities in Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.
"Nicaragua sent a delegation to the Latin America Down Under Conference and it made a very good case for Australian companies to take a closer look in this market."
Troy Resources is an emerging junior building a portfolio of gold projects in Brazil and Argentina - and managing director Paul Benson said Latin America offered better opportunities than some other mineral provinces.
"Explorers are saying - West Africa's full, Australia's been explored to death, where else can we go?" he said.
"For juniors going over there, there's a real perception that it's a place where you can do business.
"They're are realising that they can work over there, compared to the seniors, who've been there for decades."
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