Diego Hernandez was in his mid-20s when he learned a very important lesson about negotiating. The young mining executive, who would go on to become the chief executive officer of both Collahuasi and Codelco – as well as hold senior positions in BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Rio Tinto – was working in Minas Gerais state in Brazil.
It was his first on-the-ground role in mining, and he was general manager of a tin and tantalum operation in an area surrounded by farmland. Naturally, this meant lengthy discussions with local farmers over land access, which was something Hernandez quickly discovered the villagers were very good at.
One farmer came to him and offered to sell Hernandez land that he did not need or want, so he politely declined. But the man persevered and it became clear that he was not going to take no for an answer.
“I said I didn’t have...