Chilean mining towards its new normal

Even in the midst of the sanitary crisis and certainly after it, new winds can be seen in Chilean mining: new strategies, new executives, new attitudes, a new and better “normal” where various positive situations appear and converge. Chilean mining is beginning to show signs of what could be its “new normal”, not only because of the COVID-19, but also due to direct and successful confrontation with various complications that Chile has suffered in recent decades.

Chile has been living for many years with drastic drop in ore grades, plastered technology (SAG mills, inadequate process for low grade ores, “grind and float everything”, and so on), water and energy shortages, vulnerability to the global price of products, enormous reduction of contributions from the state-owned company Codelco to the tax authorities, establishment of comfort zones in many mining companies – that accommodate nests of complacent executives who are resistant to the necessary changes, and many other situations. Altogether, those circumstances have created a knot difficult to untie in Chilean mining.  But they are now beginning to be faced with more courage and creativity.

Codelco, with its recent change of administration, is now firmly facing this crisis and, at the same time, is challenging that all involved sectors assume their responsibility, as in the recent example of Codelco Norte, where an urban and geographical barrier was created to COVID-19 and where the production is being made with about 50% of the human resource allocation. A situation that will bring many consequences and worries the labor segment.

The iron mining has received new practices in the development of its engineering projects and, recently, a radical oxygenation of executives was promoted, bringing new personnel from the copper sector, young and creative talents, who will soon promote the necessary modernization of this entire segment.

Many mining companies are working today in the search for the balance between the scale of production and the dropping of ore grades and other problems. Neighboring mining companies are moving towards operational consortiums to rationalize costs, share water, energy, logistics, and infrastructure. Tailings from some mining companies are used by others, in benefit of the environment and maximizing the business for both players.

Global mineral technology giant companies (Metso and Outotec) come together to offer to the market a boost in the service segment and, most likely, in support of automatic control systems, which is the natural trend of these times. Not by chance, the one who will lead this group in South America is our Chilean colleague Eduardo Nilo, who deeply knows the situation described above and who will help to reinforce this shift for the “new normal” that we all expect for the Chilean mining industry.

May these winds soon will reach Brazil, where tragedies experienced with tailings, and now with the COVID-19, seem to have been not enough to break the practices that often deals with the consequences of the problems and, rarely, faces their origins.

Alexis Yovanovic

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