Rio Tinto and Codelco to partner on underground innovation

Chilean state-owned Codelco, and the Anglo-Australian multinational company Rio Tinto signed a collaboration agreement that will focus on the accumulated experience of both companies in the design, construction and operation of underground mines.
Rio Tinto and Codelco to partner on underground innovation Rio Tinto and Codelco to partner on underground innovation Rio Tinto and Codelco to partner on underground innovation Rio Tinto and Codelco to partner on underground innovation Rio Tinto and Codelco to partner on underground innovation

Chuquicamata is being expanded underground

The partners said the aim of the agreement is sharing knowledge on safety, technology, operational performance, productivity and advances in environmental, social and governance matter. Specifically, it will focus on shared technical visits and potentially shared knowledge on the electrification of underground mining equipment.

The agreement establishes plans for these exchanges to take place, mainly through mutual technical visits, from this year, in addition to internships for specialists who will learn about processes and projects for 12 months in an operations centre or in construction sites.

"The renewed commitment to open innovation that we are promoting to enable our next 50 years of life is reflected in this initiative," said the corporate manager of Innovation at Codelco, Felipe Lagno. "These [two large companies] value their mutual experiences and have decided to exchange knowledge within the framework of an agreement that establishes transparent mechanisms for the exchange of information"

The Codelco and Rio Tinto statement goes on to say that the decreasing ore grade of the deposits currently being exploited near the surface and the technological advances that allow operating at greater depths, indicate that the future of mining will be mainly underground.

 Added to this is the lower impact on the underground mining environment where access is now possible thanks to block caving , which is based on the use of the natural forces of gravity to carry out the extraction.

Codelco has accumulated extensive and valuable experience in the implementation of this method in Chuquicamata and El Teniente. For its part, Rio Tinto has started underground mining at its Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia.

Copper has a fundamental role in the energy transition and the decarbonisation of the global economy, added a Rio representative.

"It is estimated that the world will need as much copper in the next 25 years as has been mined in the last 6,000 years. This agreement brings together the deep industry-leading operating experience of Codelco and Rio Tinto, to share best practices and accelerate the innovation that allows to satisfy said demand both in quantity and quality, according to ESG criteria", said Soledad Jeria, Country Manager of Rio Tinto in Chile.

Another aspect of the agreement consists of the mutual recognition and commitment of each company to decarbonization through the transfer of technologies around ESG initiatives.

 In terms of electrificiation, Codelco has had pilots since 2018 with production equipment (LHD loaders), construction (concrete transporters) and personnel transport (buses and mining trucks).

The agreement also contemplates the possibility of carrying out joint projects with a limited scope, initiatives that are currently in the process of being defined by each company.

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