Fruit of the North, the largest goldmine of Ecuador and one of the two large-scale recently operated in the country, is behind the “boom” of the mining exportswhich in 2022 were among the star products sent abroad, with more than US$ 2.7 billion in sales, 2.41% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Located in the Amazonian province of Zamora Chinchipe, bordering Peru, this underground mine operated by the Canadian firm Lundin Gold has a depth of up to 372 meters in a straight line from the surface and proven reserves of 5.02 million ounces of gold, of which that an average of 375,000 are extracted annually.
This annual production has boosted Ecuador’s mining exports along with the copper produced in Mirador, an open pit mine operated by Ecuacorriente also in Zamora Chinchipe, and which also came into operation in 2019.
Since then, Ecuador’s mineral shipments abroad have increased 751%, going from US$ 326 million in 2019 to US$ 2,775 million in 2022, in fourth place in the country’s export basket and in third position in products. non-oil products, only behind shrimp (prawns) and bananas.
In the first half of this year, mining exports stood at US$ 1,642 million, which suggests that it will close this year with a figure greater than US$ 3,000 million, said Juan José Herrera, senior manager of Business Sustainability at Lundin Gold.
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.
Gold leaves the concession “The Bush”which covers 5,566 hectares, in 300 of which – among others – the camp, workshops, the plant and the mine itself have been built.
With a total investment estimated at about US$1.7 billion, Fruta del Norte has a projected useful life of up to 2034, but Ron Hochstein, president and CEO of Lundin Gold, sees an expectation of at least half a century for the company’s potential. zone.
Fruta del Norte is one of the 31 concessions that Lundin Gold has, covering 64,453 hectares located mostly in Zamora Chinchipe and a small percentage in its neighbor Morona Santiago, some of which are not even being explored.
Local economy on the rise
The impact of the mine has not only been reflected in exports, but also in the economy of the province, generating 1,940 direct and 1,114 indirect jobs, of which 51% are residents of Zamora Chinchipe, 40% of the rest of Ecuador and 9% are foreigners from a dozen countries.
Among the women who work at Fruta del Norte is mining engineer Génesis Salinas, a 29-year-old mine supervisor, who explained that since joining the firm in 2020, she claims to have experienced professional growth, like Maritza Reyes, 30 years old, drilling machinery operator.
Dozens of meters deep, on a tour of the mine, Maritza is seen operating the immense machinery, a job for which she was trained by the company, since she previously served as a secretary for a town in the area.
The economic dynamism figures also show that the mine generated a total of US$ 145 million in direct and indirect benefits for the State in 2021, and that 92% of the tax collection in Zamora Chinchipe came 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 range between 450,000 and 485,000 ounces of gold.
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