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UPDATE 1-Mexican miners warn of 'major delays' from environment, water rules

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(Adds data from Camimex, economy ministry)

By David Alire Garcia

MEXICO CITY, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Mexican mining companies face "major delays" with environmental and water permits, the head of sector chamber Camimex said on Monday, as the metals sector seeks to boost operations in the one of the country's biggest industries.

Camimex President Fernando Alanis told reporters during a webcast presentation touting a new sustainability report that the delays were especially pronounced for getting the country's environment ministry Semarnat to approve environmental impact statements for mining projects.

"This is definitely an issue," said Alanis. "Specifically, with Semarnat we have major delays," he said.

He also noted significant permitting delays with government water agency CONAGUA.

According to Camimex, 18 specific mining project permits are pending before Semarnat, corresponding to projects that represent investment of nearly $2.8 billion.

Alanis said the chamber had held talks with Semarnat's deputy minister, Tonatiuh Herrera, and that more meetings were scheduled.

Mining industry executives in Mexico say Semarnat layoffs over the past couple years, part of government spending cuts under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, have reduced the number of officials who can process permits.

The environment ministry and CONAGUA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 60% of Mexican mining projects backed by foreign capital, or 757 out of a total of 1,210 projects, were categorized as "delayed" in an economy ministry report from June.

Despite regulatory delays, Mexican mining investment is seen rebounding this year, helped by higher prices for minerals, with expected growth of more than 40% to reach some $5 billion compared with $3.5 billion in 2020.

Mexico is the world's biggest silver producer, accounting for nearly a quarter of global output, as well as a top ten producer of a dozen other minerals, including gold, copper and zinc.

It represents about 2.3% of the country's overall economic activity. (Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, David Gregorio and Sandra Maler)