Systematic Management of Mining Data and Governance in Argentina Salta Province
Capacity building for government officials of the Province of Salta was done during November and December of 2022. Main beneficiaries receiving the knowledge were officials from the Secretary of Mines and Energy (SME) and the General Directorate for Energy and Mining Resources (DGREM, in Spanish) in the province of Salta, both entities responsible for the governance and regulation of all mining projects. The exchange aimed at helping monitor Salta’s staff reforms to modernize the way mining data is handled for regulatory and oversight functions. Salta Province is experiencing a large boom in the mining of lithium minerals due to the global decarbonization agenda. The objectives of the capacity-building activity were to (a) acquire knowledge and firsthand experience in planning and data management; (b) enhance technical information technology skills; (c) build a professional network and foster relationships with expert staff with similar responsibilities (e.g., mining data management, regulatory control, and enforcement); (d) support team building among SME colleagues teams and improve motivation; and (e) prepare to implement the Bank-supported project (i.e. Sistema Información Minera de Salta, SIMSa).
For this purpose, delegates traveled first to Chile and then to Peru, for full-day workshops whereby participants (Table 3 and 4) received presentations related to IT tools and processes on topics such as (i) mining property and fiscal oversight; (ii) incident management and sanctions; (iii) project evaluation; (iv) environmental performance; (v) training; and (vi) intelligent data visualization and management. In each country, high-level specialized professionals dedicated effort to transfer knowledge and useful material.
The World Bank has surveyed the situation of information systems and management of mining procedures in the SME and DGREM. It did a complete review of the different information systems, reporting procedures of mining companies, and management of concession and control processes. The survey revealed that, at the time, the management and information systems are mostly manual, the files are paper-based and the information that facilitates the preparation of reports for decision-making, control, or disclosure with transparency is not systematized. Reports on mining activity in Salta are made on an ad-hoc basis by requirements of mining authorities or other government agencies and other stakeholders (for example, legislators or requests from the Ministry of Mining). Responding to each of these information requests requires significant work and is based on the compilation of data that is, most of the time, dispersed in Excel spreadsheets and other times in physical paper files. This South-South knowledge exchange was an important addition to World Bank funding, which is assisting the SME and DGREM in preparing different digital modules to gradually integrate into a single mining information system.
Salta’s SME and DGREM need exposure to the experience of more evolved and mature regulators with well-functioning and comprehensive web-based systems, which collect and keep a record of all the data and information related to mines and minerals, including geographical locations, and enable online payment of levies. Under the World Bank project (P176138), technical assistance is provided to SMEs to help them set up a digital system that will be able to input data from multiple sources, like mining companies/operators, and regional offices of the Secretariat, to process and archive information and make non-confidential data available to the public online. With the study tours, the authorities from the Province of Salta expected to learn how to (i) provide easy access to mines and minerals information; (ii) improve data integrity and transparency; (iii) minimize human errors; (iv) reduce face-to-face interactions; (v) improve the efficiency of data collection, analysis, and information dissemination; and (vi) ensure accountability of the staff.
The approach to the knowledge exchange for the representatives of Salta authorities was to conduct two study tours, first to Santiago, Chile, and then to Lima, Peru. Through preparatory video meetings, the programs of the study tours programs were designed to meet the needs of the Salta Province authorities, taking into consideration the strengths and particular characteristics of each of the regulators sharing their knowledge and experience.
The first visit occurred on November 28-30, 2022 in Santiago de Chile. A total of seven delegates from Salta (see Table 1) were hosted by staff from the Servicio Nacional de Geologia y Mineria (SERNAGEOMIN) and the Comisión Chilena de Minería (Cochilco). The tour agenda covered the topics listed below, which were extensively covered by experts from the knowledge-providing countries during presentations, discussions, and technical demonstrations. These topics included: (i) functioning of SERNAGEOMIN and Cochilco; (ii) inspections and audits of operators; (iii) incident management, reporting, and sanctioning; (iv) project evaluation; (v) environmental management; (vi) IT and data intelligence/processing; and (vii) institutional training.
The second study tour took place in Lima, Peru, on December 5-7, 2022. It was hosted by the Dirección General de Minas (at the Ministry of Mines and Energy). Over the course of three full days, well-versed staff from the Ministry shared with the visitors their valuable experience, knowledge, and insight. They also handed out helpful material in the form of publications, schematics, and digital content, on all the relevant topics covered during the knowledge exchange.
Upon returning from the visits, a World Bank Team from the Energy and Extractives Practice Group provided further technical assistance and support to SME and DGREM. The experience and knowledge learned during the study tours proved to be instrumental in the development of the Mining Information System of Salta Province in Argentina (SIMSa).
The first phase of the system will have three information and management priority modules: (i) the module for digitizing the registry of mining social and economic impact data; (ii) the module for digitizing the surface fee payment procedure; and (iii) the module for digitizing the mining royalty payment procedure.
The beneficiaries learned a wide range of lessons from the knowledge exchange. The following information has been shared with the World Bank Team by all government participants in the visits. Summarized lessons by area include:
Coordination and System Integration
- It is fundamental to have an integrated information system that covers all phases of the mining process, where data can be uploaded by users and visualized in real-time, making it widely available to all pertinent areas in SME.
- The digitalization process in both countries contributed to the growth of mining activity (this is critical for Salta as it undergoes rapid growth in lithium mining projects).
- Digitization made it possible to streamline the interaction between different government agencies, and the alignment and optimization of procedures.
- Digital systems used allow the simple unification of information when companies comply with the various processes (e.g., acquisition of mining property, mine closure, compliance inspections, project evaluations, mandatory training, etc.)
- Digital systems contribute to the coordination and alignment between the various agencies and regulatory agencies, helping with information management and decision-making.
- The migration from paper to digital happened gradually in both countries. Agencies could not be immediately separated a hundred percent from paper; even today some small things are done mechanical by paper.
- The digital system allows respective agencies to generate useful global statistics on mining activity, helping in the publishing of data and the development of the mining sector in the country. The modernization helps attract and encourage investments in this sector.
- One of the most important points is the standardization of data, which makes digitization possible.
- Chile uses "Power BI", which is a platform with interactive visualizations of the loaded data, with the capacity to apply different filters and formulate simple and user-friendly panels and reports.
- The look and feel of the platforms allow them to effectively manage the user and system interface, which helps, for example, with preventing a process from advancing when an error or inconsistency appears.
- A good example tool used in Peru is La Plataforma DAC (Declaración Anual Consolidada), operated on Microsoft's Base.Net software. This tool manages a progressive enforcement regime for sanctioning operating companies. Salta is trying to develop and improve its sanctioning scheme, and DAC will be a reference when a module for this function is designed.
- A good example for reference and learning is the Atlas information system because effectively centralizes and consolidates different databases and stores all the mining information in Chile.
- It is important to pay close attention and detect where there may be duplication of information or where the loading can be erroneous information during the uploading of data by different people.
Oversight and Inspection
- The digitalization of the licensing process helps to grant priority to the first person/company that submits the form (this provides transparency and fairness).
- The digital systems allow for strict control of mine safety, contributing to the reduction of fatalities and serious incidents.
- A good instrument is the "Sheet of Operations", a repository of inspections, sanctions, and corrective actions. This is an extremely useful tool that helps to prioritize inspections based on risk factors and historical performance.
- Digital records facilitate the auditing and inspection process, thus helping the work of the inspector.
- In Chile, the system automatically sends the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to all relevant agencies involved in the governance of the sector. This makes it efficient and reduces regulatory costs. Likewise, improves with deadlines for analysis and reporting.
- COCHILCO methodologies and processes of inspection, control, and collection of mining royalties, are a good example to emulate, as they allow to assess the complete flow of the mining activity, including aspects related to price variations.
- The system widely contributes to building trust by enhancing transparency in the sector, as agencies can promptly publish reports and corrective actions.
- It is important to document the step-by-step process for designing the system, making decisions and what were the reasons for their choice.
- The digitalization of sanctioning processes and environmental assessment procedures help to overcome challenges during the implementation of rules and regulations, and corrective actions associated with inspections.
- Peru's classification of mining projects is interesting and useful. Categories based on size and other dimensions are critical to adjusting procedures and requirements and making management more effective. Classification is based on the area occupied and tons produced.
- License holders present a monthly production report, which keeps the statistics updated and allows them to maintain permanent control over the collection of mining royalties.
- All digital reporting is done by identified individual license holders who receive manuals and training.
- Forms need to be as simple as possible and interactive to enable certain fields to auto-complete.
Applicable tools with potential application in Salta:
- A "Directorate of Mining Formalization", to help register the largest number of holders, allocating human and material resources to achieve this end.
- The regularity for presenting the EIA is a good example, since the system helps to track progress and status from when study is first submitted, and updates are done.
- The grid system to organize the Mining Cadastre is a good sample tool. This has brought enormous benefits to the country, both in terms of cadastral order and in the legal security granted to holders.
- The Administrative Economic Unit (UEA) is a valid concept for standardizing reporting and submittal of information.
- The Mine Closure Plan module, required with the first EIA environmental impact, is a good component of the system. Salta is moving in this direction and will distinguish three important stages: Progressive Closure, Final Closure, and Post-Closure.
Beneficiaries / Participants
Secretary of Mines and Energy (SME), Director Gral de Recursos Energéticos y Mineros de Salta: Public Accountant
SME, Jefa del Programa Gestión y Policía Minera. Dir Gral Minería: Head Secretary, General Coordinator, Legal Advisor, Geologist and IT Specialist
General Directorate for Energy and Mining Resources (DGREM) Jefa de Programa Jurídico. Dir Asuntos Legales y Técnicos: Lawyer
DGREM, Jefe Subprograma Canon y Estadísticas: Manager
Secretaria del Juzgado: Lawyer
Testimonials from beneficiaries
Sebastián Ricardo Alvarez
"I found this exchange very important, since, beyond the presentations and the material provided by the officials of both agencies, they shared their experience in terms of the creation and implementation of all these changes, especially the computer system, which were applied in recent years and requires constant improvement…”
“Not only the presentations and dissertations were clear and precise, but also had the possibility of permanent exchange and interaction in the development of the conference, as well as establishing links and contacts that allow following the traceability of the mining and computer development of the Province, with the eventual collaboration or consultation of the members of said organizations”.
“I would like to highlight the great availability of our Chilean peers in showing their entire structure, how they work, the problems they had, and how they solved them, which will help us forward more fluidly with the creation of our systems”.
“I really learned a lot. The several techniques they use can be implemented in the Secretariat almost directly, and others will serve as a guide for the creation of our system.”
World Bank Contribution
A World Bank task team facilitated the knowledge exchange funded through a South-South Facility grant. The team coordinated the tour agenda and program via VC with staff from government agencies in Chile and Peru. The detail tour agendas were discussed to ensure that the visits delivered the best results, and the most helpful knowledge was transferred, based on specific needs of Salta, and in the context of the Bank Technical Assistance project for digitalizing mining information. The Bank team included Javier Aguilar (TTL, Senior Mining Specialist), Francisco J. Sucre (Senior Energy consultant) and Daniel Jeréz (Senior Mining consultant).
- The government of the Province of Salta has requested additional support from the World Bank Team, to continue and expand the SIMsa project beyond its original scope. The Government would like to advance the digital tool and incorporate different aspects and features learned during the Study Tour.
- The SIMsa project is expected to be scaled outside of Salta and replicated in other mining provinces in Argentina and functionally linked to the national System.
- The relevance of the project is underpinned by the fact that Argentina EITI program aims at having a national system that can comply with the systematic disclosure requirement of the EITI. Argentina is part of the Open Government Partnership within the framework of the Opening Extractives Program to address the EITI Argentina work plan for the period 2022-2023.
Government officials and key decision makers from the SME and DGREM were able to learn multiple aspects of mining governance and digital mining systems from the knowledge providing countries. Upon returning from the study tours, SME staff, with support from the World Bank team, initiated the preparation of Salta’s Mining Information System of Salta Province in Argentina (SIMSa), which is being designed taking into consideration and referencing much of the information and knowledge obtained during the study tours in Chile and Peru. The experience provided knowledge and capacities to prepare the detailed technical terms of reference that have directed the development of the software and system package tailored to SME and DGREM requirements. The work in progress is shown in the screen pictures below. A key learning from the study tours was the estimate of the dimensions of the hardware, and level of effort, necessary for the implementation of the system, and recommendations on the human resources required for managing, maintaining, and gradual future expansion of the system.
The digital platform SIMSa will be owned and operated by SME. It will allow for the managing, processing, and analyzing of all the information on mining activity of the province of Salta, as well as allowing to manage compliance with the requirements demanded by the standard of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). The system will have various functionalities that will be determined during the project. For example, SIMSa will allow for the management of records, payment of online levies and data entry from multiple public and private sources, data processing, analysis, and management, as well as making available non-confidential information to the public and interconnect with other systems (for example, SIACAM at the Federal level).
The activities were organized and led by World Bank Project Team in collaboration with representatives from the Servicio Nacional de Geologia y Mineria (SERNAGEOMIN) and Comisión Chilena de Minería (Cochilco) in Chile, and the Direccion General de Minas (DGM) in Perú.
The visiting groups were guided by the World Bank Senior Mining Consultant.