Steve Fiscor Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

During late April, mining suppliers from around the world spent four days stuck in a traffic jam on Route 68 trying to get to and from Expomin. The 4-lane highway, which connects Santiago with Viña del Mar on the Pacific Coast, traverses through Chile’s famed vineyards. Normally, driving in South America is a thrill with aggressive drivers and speed limits that seem to be a mere suggestion. On this trip, however, the car rarely broke 40 km/hr as we sat in traffic for hours.

On the first day, we caught a break when the Chilean police force, the carabineros, cleared the way for President Gabriel Boric’s motorcade. His appearance at Expomin along with other dignitaries signified the importance of the mining sector to Chile’s economy. President Boric’s address at Expomin came a few days after he announced his plans to nationalize the lithium mining sector (see Leading Development, p 4). Boric is a populist president and lithium is in high demand, so most could see this coming especially after Mexico announced similar intentions.

“I am proud to speak on behalf of Chile at a fair that is the most important mining fair in Latin America, the second most important in the world, and which has a track record of more than 30 years, and 17 face-to-face versions,” Boric said. “For this event, the largest fairground in Chile is being created, along with the largest convention center in Chile with the capacity to accommodate 2,500 people.”

The new fairground to which he referred was Parque Fisa. While the convention center might be able to accommodate 2,500, the organizers (Fisa) and the fairground were woefully unprepared to handle the Expomin crowd. The exposition had nearly 1,300 companies exhibiting and Fisa estimated attendance figures at 70,000 with more than 10% traveling to Santiago from abroad, attendance figures that would be on par with pre-COVID-19 levels. Once on site the exhibit, which was housed in tented halls, looked great and the meeting space for the technical sessions functioned well, but there were serious issues when it came to traffic, parking, food, trash and restrooms.

In the past, Expomin took place in Espacio Riesco in an emerging business district in a barrio called Recoleta about one-third of the way from downtown Santiago to the airport. Espacio Riesco was not perfect. It had local traffic issues, but it also had three ways to enter and exit the fairground. Parque Fisa had one way in and one way out.

Expomin is facing stiff competition from Exponor, a regional trade show with impressive attendance figures that takes place in Antofagasta, near the mines. If it’s not careful, it could cede its top Latin American status to Exponor or Perumin, which takes place in Arequipa, Peru. Fisa has two years to fix the problem.