She just became a grandmother and she doesn’t know how to cook. Luz Evangelia Arias Vargas, a married mother of two, knows about mines, about extractions and about prices of metals. She recently became the first female president of the National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy, and this honor almost passed unnoticed during the first press conference that she gave at the union headquarters.
It was a female reporter who remembered and congratulated Arias. Before, it had only been a steady stream of questions from men who hadn’t noticed.
“I’ve never felt less, or different, or special for being a woman in this sector,” Arias said while she glanced at her cell phone out of the corner of her eye.
Arias said that the best time of her life was when she had school vacations. All of her friends would go to the beach or travel abroad. But not her. She would go to the mines with her father, her siblings, her cousins and the rest of her family.
“It was wonderful, because we could have direct contact with nature: I would walk around, explore, hike,” Arias said. “I met the children of the mine workers and the kids in the surrounding areas.”
With this past, it was no surprise when she left architecture to get fully involved in mining in 1977, even though, at that time, prices of metals were through the floor.
She had done well in architecture. When she was still very young, she joined a couple of friends from her university and they formed their own business. Eventually, they were hiring the very teachers who had taught them in university. Everything was going well.
“But my father’s company began with some tough times, and I decided to help, first from the administrative and financial side,” said Arias, who would soon take on more responsibility every time that she demonstrated her leadership and organizational skills.
She could soon be seen among the directors of the mining company “La Poderosa” and in management positions.
With a woman’s name
“I have the tendency to get myself involved whenever I see problems and resolve them,” said Arias before recounting several stories that reflect this attribute, which has allowed her to find answers when others weren’t able.
“On one occasion, the price of a mineral had fallen tremendously,” she said. “Other companies decided to stop their mines and wait until the price went up again. But we could not have that luxury.”
So she got down to work and literally went around the world looking for buyers.
“We took many trips to look for interested businesses,” she said. “And in the end we found them, but we had to separate our metals by quality and change the form of presentation and packaging in order to be considered in the European market.”
Another moment in which she proved her hunger for problem solving was when she had to travel by herself to different countries to find a professional who was capable of establishing a system of extraction for a mine that had lost money because of how it had been working.
“There are minerals that have to be extracted in a complicated way and, if it’s not done well, you lose money,” she said.
“I also want to do everything possible to achieve social peace,” Arias added. “If we live in a state of law, we can achieve the benefits agreements for everyone and get the quality of life that all Peruvians deserve.”
Arias belongs to the third generation of a family dedicated to mining. Her grandfather was a miner; her father as well. She chose to continue the tradition, and she’s not the only one.
“I have a son who is a geologist and a daughter who has specialized in social conflict resolution,” she said. “She just became a mother and she has a daughter that might continue in the family business. It would be nice because mining is a job that gives a lot back to those who work with integrity in it.”
There are no regrets in her story.
“I don’t think that my children have felt my absense,” she said. “It’s true that this job takes time away. I can’t read Mario Vargas Llosa like before or paint pictures. But, without a doubt, it is gratifying to work in the development of such an important sector of our country.”
And there is no doubt that that is what she is doing.