50 years since the nationalization of copper – Opinion article

This anniversary invites deep reflection. First of all, because most of the natural resources nationalizations have failed in the world, so the maintenance of Codelco, the Chilean state company that has brought together the nationalized mines since its creation in 1976, is a favorable exception. In the case of copper, the other great examples, the state companies of Congo (Gécamines) and Zambia (Zimco – ZCCM) have been very far from generating a contribution to their countries. In Peru, the nationalization process ended up being reversed through the privatization of many of the mines that had been nationalized.

The excellent quality of the deposits and the Chilean professionals are an important part of Codelco’s exceptional character.

The contribution that Codelco has made to the fiscal treasury has been very significant, but it is also worth highlighting other elements – more subtle and often not so considered – in order to fully understand the result of the nationalization in Chile. Perhaps the most important has been to consolidate a mass of world-class mining professionals since Codelco is the place where many Chileans have started their professional careers, after which they move on to the circuit of private mining companies both in Chile and internationally. In a way, Codelco has been a catalyst for the development of mining professionals.

Another relevant aspect is that beyond the central areas linked to investment and mining operation, Codelco has allowed Chile to accumulate key knowledge of the global mining business, allowing it to truly “play the game” in areas such as marketing, finance , suppliers of goods and services and human resources, among others.

Codelco also makes it possible to represent the country’s interest in the global mining industry. In a way it is a vehicle that makes clear, before global bodies, the view that the state has on a sector on which it depends. This has been reinforced by the role of other Chilean private mining companies that have developed notably in recent years, such as Antofagasta Minerals and SQM.

Furthermore, Codelco’s coexistence with private mining companies establishes a healthy implicit point of comparison for the management of the state company and vice versa.

But it would be a mistake to be complacent. Furthermore, this half century of Codelco’s existence does not guarantee that the future is won. Rather, the emphasis should be on how to continue to combat the forces that bring down state-owned companies around the world. And there is a lot of work to do.

If you look in retrospect, the state of Chile has not been a good owner since it has extracted rents without taking care to capitalize in the times and amounts that would have been required, which is why today the company faces a colossal investment challenge on which good depends part of your future.

On the other hand, there are still sectors of the state (especially the Comptroller’s Office) that want to impose a restrictive framework of action, incompatible with the businesses that the company must develop. It is important to find the right balance between the control that ensures that the company represents the interests of all Chileans equally, with the essential management capacity that ensures that Codelco will continue to be an exception as a viable company in the state of Chile.

Source: La Tercera

Translated with Google Translator