15 April 2021

Key insights

Brazil – March is already Brazil's most lethal month of the pandemic; April is set to be worse. There are increasing concerns about insufficient stocks of intubation medicine and oxygen. 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. The United States is negotiating with Brazil on the release of stockpiled AstraZeneca vaccines. 

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 – BHP will accelerate the US$2.5 billion expansion of its Spence copper mine after the project was delayed due to COVID-19. Current efforts are focused on using renewable energy: BHP wants to run both Spence and Escondida entirely on renewable energy by 2022. Australian companies with renewable energy projects suitable for deployment at mine sites should reach out to Austrade – details below.  

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

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.