18 June 2021

Key insights

Brazil – COVID-19 infections have fallen from a peak of over 100,000 infections per day at the end of March. However there are concerns that the disease is having a greater impact on younger people than during earlier phases of the pandemic. Epidemiologists continue to warn of virus mutations and more dangerous variants emerging in Brazil due to the virus spread and the inadequate speed of the vaccine rollout.

Chile – Chile reported an eight per cent drop in production at its Escondida copper mine between July 2020 and March 2021, citing the challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic. BHP expects a more challenging operating environment in the second quarter of 2021 with the increase of coronavirus cases and border closures in Chile.

Latin America – Mining and energy investment in Latin America is continuing to grow strongly. There have been major announcements by Orica, BHP, Barack Gold Global and Ausenco. This is opening up significant new METS opportunities for Australian suppliers. The imposition of new safety measures in mining operations across Latin America may present Australian METS companies with fresh opportunities.

Mexico International tourism to the main coastal resorts in Mexico is expected to contract by more than 75% in Q1 2021. This is mostly due to the suspension of flights between Canada and Mexico, and the fact that travelers from Mexico and Europe must now undergo a COVID-19 test. The halt to flights from Canada is expected to last until at least April. Low tourism forecasts are impacting imports of Australian premium foods, including beef (see below).

Market opportunities

Resources

Chile – Remote workers at BHP operations in Chile (Escondida and Spence) have been on strike since 28 May 28, after failing to reach an agreement on labour contracts. This coincides with a spike in copper prices fueled by soaring global demand. Production is minimally affected, according to reports.

Chile – The Chilean mining industry is highly receptive to new technology that increases productivity or enhances mine-worker safety. This creates opportunities for Australian METS and VET companies looking to diversity and expand. Austrade is working with several large mining groups to explore supply chain gaps that can be filled by Australian expertise.

Chile – There is also a growing trend in Chile towards using renewable energy solutions to support the mining sector, owing to increased power prices. The trend applies particularly to the copper sector, where ageing mines require more power to stay profitable. Usage of renewable energy in the copper industry is expected to grow from 10.5% to 49% over the next three years.

Chile – Thirteen major mining companies with operations in Chile have set carbon emissions-reduction goals for the next decade to contribute to Chile’s efforts to be carbon neutral by 2050. This will create opportunities for Australian companies that have renewable and energy-efficient technologies that can be applied to mining.

Mexico – Given the forecast boom in demand from the electric vehicle (EV) market, lithium is viewed as a strategic mineral for Mexico, which could help fund public services. Bacanora Lithium and JV partner Ganfeng Lithium hold the 10 concessions that form the Sonora project. This is by far the largest and most advanced lithium asset in Mexico, and one of the biggest globally, with measured and indicated resources of around 5Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent. This could provide opportunities for Australian METS companies, including those with critical minerals expertise.

Food & Beverages

Argentina – The National Government introduced a 30-day ban on beef exports in an effort to reduce domestic prices.  Argentina exported approximately 750,000 metric tonnes of beef in 2020. The bulk went to China (68%). Other recipients included Chile (8%), Israel (7%), Germany (4.6%). Argentina’s withdrawal, plus lower volumes from Brazil, and domestic pork supply issues will stress China’s meat protein supply. This impact could open opportunities for Australian exporters. Austrade teams are ready to help.

Mexico - International tourism to the main coastal resorts in Mexico is expected to contract by more than 75% in Q1 2021. Importers of Australian beef and seafood have decided to cancel some orders as the food service sector is hurting financially. Shutdowns in other major cities and commercial centres have also compounded the reduction in demand for premium food and beverage.

Ed-tech

Latin America – There is strong demand for digital solutions in the education sector, including in blended learning solutions. A willingness to embrace online learning will open opportunities for Australian institutions looking at new ways to engage with students in Latin America. The recent success of Austrade's Masterclass series is an example of this work. For metrics on student response to the Masterclasses, please reach out to our Chile Office.