With its strong growth trends and growing economic clout, Latin America has risen in recent years to become a vital part of the international economy, with its resources industry a key part of this emergence. The strength of that emergence is reflected in an increasing number of Australian miners, explorers and industry suppliers – totalling more than 80 – expanding their reach across the Indian Ocean to more than a dozen Latin American mining focused jurisdictions.Just how strong these ties are will be on show this week in Sydney when the second, two day Paydirt Latin America DownUnder 2013 conference is held at the Sheraton-on-the-Park over May 29 and 30.Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the 10 Latin American delegations coming to the forum is the largest single such business group from that region to come to Sydney.Conference Convenor Bill Repard says the Ministerial and high-end business depth of the Latin American delegation is a clear sign of the region’s collective interest and emerging momentum in engaging with Australian miners and explorers.“The Australian Government has made significant effort to enhance its relations with the nations and the economies of Latin America and a particularly strong partnership is emerging in the mining sector,” Repard said. “Latin America is home to large ore bodies, strong mining cultures and governments which offer stable and attractive investment environments, yet it still holds vast, untapped potential.”“Mining has benefited from a resurgence in virtually all Latin American economies in the past 10 years to a point the sector has grown significantly its share of gross domestic product from around 4% to above 6% currently, tripling the worth of mining activity to in excess of $300 billion and on target to forecasts of $400 billion a year by 2020,” he said.“Among the more invigorated mining destinations over this period have been Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.”Ministerial or Vice Ministerial (equivalent) delegations travelling to Sydney include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru.Chairman of the Australia-Latin America Business Council, Jose Blanco, said countries like Colombia were good examples of not just those striving to push ahead with mining expansions to establish the sector as one of their “locomotives” of economic growth, but reflective also of the challenges likely to be encountered in meeting those aspirations.“That Colombia has the potential to become a significant mining player is indisputable,” Blanco said.“The country is already the largest producer of emeralds and one of the largest exporters of thermal coal and ferronickel in the world, with the involvement of well-known players such as BHP Billiton and Glencore/Xstrata, to name a few,” he said.“There are also ample indicators that it has the potential to produce substantial quantities of gold, iron ore and metallurgical coal, provided that the price is right. However, while progress is being made by a growing number of domestic and foreign-owned mining companies, most of Colombia’s mining potential remains untapped and the industry contributes less than 3% of GDP.“But they are making steps forward including the creation of the National Mining Agency, the reform of its geological service, Ingeominas, and structural changes enhancing the independence and effectiveness of mining-related institutions.“The result is that increasing numbers of foreign resources companies, including a handful of Australian juniors, now rank Colombia as one of their preferred targets.”Repard said there was also strong interest from Latin America in learning from Australia’s mining experience in the areas of environmental protection, engagement with indigenous communities, creating mining clusters and generally developing a sustainable mining model.This would see site visits to Australia next month by Latin American miners and government agencies to witness first-hand how mining can be conducted alongside agribusinesses.The 2013 Paydirt Latin America DownUnder program has attracted nearly 300 delegates from business, government, academia and a Latin America business media contingent.The program will be opened on Wednesday morning by Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Bob Carr. He will be joined at the podium by Australia’s Latin American diplomatic corps, including its Austrade representatives active in the region. The Hon Gary Gray, Minister for Resources and Energy, will speak at the Conference’s Ministerial Dinner on Wednesday night.Chile (covered in detail in IM’s June issue) is the world’s largest copper and second-largest molybdenum producer; Brazil is the world’s second-largest iron ore producer; Peru (covered in detail in IM’s June issue) is the world’s eighth-largest gold producer and second-largest copper producer; Colombia has increasing coal reserves and production while Mexico is the world’s largest silver producer. The region is home to some of the world’s biggest mining operations, including copper mines such as Escondida (expected to produce 1.3 Mt/y from 2015) and Collahausi (450,000 t copper produced in 2011), gold operations such as Laguna Norte and Yanacocha as well as Brazil’s Iron Quadrilateral.