Australian miners should seek business opportunities in Latin America: Government

Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, called local mining companies to look at Latin America as a business destination.

Speaking at the Latin America Downunder conference in Sydney on Wednesday, Carr said he wanted to encourage Australian investment in Latin America to help both parts of the world share resources and expertise, reports The West Australian.

He also said Latin America was emerging as an important economic powerhouse and was keen for Australian investment. 

"What began as a trickle of Australian mining projects in Latin America, largely off the back of the success of the joint venture between BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto at Escondida in Chile, has turned into a flood across the continent," he said.

The trade commissioner at the Australian embassy in Peru, Dan Sullivan, has been quoted as repeatedly saying he is concerned Aussie miners are failing to take advantage of the many opportunities in the region.

“There are around 35 Australian companies [in Latin America], but there are around 300 to 400 Canadian companies here; the Canadians are all over South America, which means that Australian mining companies are missing out on the opportunities here, and this worries me,” he told Australian Mining last year.

Currently there are more than $245 billion announced in investments for the Latin America extractive industry in the next five to 10 years, with special emphasis in Chile, Peru and Colombia. Large miners, such as BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto already have an established presence in the market.

Last month, Australia's Oz Minerals (ASX:OZL) admitted it was planning to acquire assets in Chile and Peru. CEO Terry Burgess said that uncertainty over copper demand and prices this year has opened up opportunities.

"I have seen more opportunities recently than I have ever seen in the last couple of years. Maybe people are taking some note of the uncertainty and think if they are going to sell their assets now it's the right time to do so," Burgess said.

Also in late April, members of the Buy Australian at Home and Aboard (BAHA) program, mostly suppliers, visited Colombia to explore what the country has to offer in terms of mining for foreign investors.

Currently, over 80 Australian suppliers have businesses in Chile, about 25 in Peru, 10 in Colombia and the numbers keep rising.

There are more than 400 companies in Australia that supply mining equipment, technology and services related to the industry, from which more than 200 export to the rest of the world.