Jimena Blanco leads Verisk Maplecroft's Americas research team, with regional and thematic experts based in the UK and Mexico.
She is the Americas expert on Brazil and the Southern Cone, and frequently provides advice to multinational companies and multilateral institutions on political risk in Latin America.
She participates in diplomatic, academic and business forums, addressing issues of regional and country-specific concern. Jimena also makes regular contributions to the British and foreign media
Jimena Blanco, Latin America lead for above-ground risk consultant Verisk Maplecroft, expects investors, not governments and regulators, to lead meaningful change in industry best practice following the latest tailings disaster at Vale's Feijao iron ore mine in Brazil.
The disaster, which killed some 300 people in late January, has prompted government reviews, regulatory reforms, and a programme to establish an global standard on tailings facilities and monitoring by the International Council on Metals and Mining. But political agendas and gaps or inconsistencies in regulatory enforcement suggest meaningful reform might evade the industry.
The reaction of the investment community, however, could prove decisive.
"Many [investors] are asking whether this is a Brazil problem, is it an industry problem, or is it a company problem - can we continue investing in some of these asset classes and operations?" Blanco told Mining Journal.
"In our view, it's the institutional investors who are asking a lot of new, in-depth questions around their exposure to social and environmental risks; about community views and expectations; and whether companies have a social licence to operate.
"They want to know if there are open social conflicts and whether they meet socially responsible investment criteria if they invest in the sector. From that point of view, they will force positive change to ensure disasters like this one don't continue to happen as often as they have done.
"Another event of this scale would really mean investors reconsider their position and whether they can invest in the sector into the future. Investors need to make sure miners are getting it right so they don't pay the price for industry mistakes."
She said the mining industry had made significant strides forward in the past decade but progress needed to continue.
Blanco said some companies and jurisdictions were consistently hitting best practice but those standards needed to be adopted by the industry as a whole and implemented across the globe. She said companies doing this well had buy-in at the top on ESG issues, which trickled down to operations and communities.
This is part of our tailings and water management podcast series, which will explore the issues from social, technical, and legal perspectives.