To enable its transformation, and within the framework of its renewed commitment to an open innovation model, Codelco says it is giving a strong boost to collaborative work with suppliers, technology centres, universities, research centres and other multiple actors in the mining innovation ecosystem. It says its recent technological development agreement signed with the Advanced Mining Technology Center (AMTC) at the University of Chile is already bearing fruit with research that focuses on the seven strategic innovation axes of the mining company.

“We seek to generate teams with complementary capabilities, combining Codelco’s own talent with that from the ecosystem, to provide the best response to our challenges. The specialised technical capabilities of the nearly 100 researchers at the AMTC, a centre dedicated 100% to applied research, are a valuable example of this collaboration,” explains Julio Díaz, Codelco’s Corporate Manager of Innovation.

The high modelling capacity of the AMTC means it is an ideal partner for the large amount of data that Codelco has. “We take on the challenge of modelling this data and transforming it into useful information to contribute to the development of solutions on issues as important to the future of this company as large-scale underground mining – water and tailings management and chlorinated leaching processes, among others,” comments Javier Ruiz del Solar, Executive Director of the AMTC. Here are some examples of the projects that have been developed in conjunction with the AMTC, and that are part of the challenges to be addressed within the framework of this agreement:

Analysis of data obtained during tests with autonomous underground trucks

In January 2021, in line with Codelco’s future potential strategies, an industrial test to introduce autonomous trucks for the transport and haulage of ore in underground operations was completed at the Esmeralda Mine Panel 2 of the El Teniente Division. From this experience, a considerable amount of information was generated that is now being analysed by the AMTC to generate the conclusions of the said test and thus identify the advantages in the use of underground autonomous truck technology. With this information, it will also be possible to design a model that allows this project to be scaled to other Codelco underground operations, and to provide guidelines for future integration between these trucks and other equipment and/or systems already operating in the mine, thus establishing the basis for an interoperability model that Codelco and the wider mining industry can use in operations going forward.

Seismic tomography for exploration

Taking advantage of the abundant seismicity present in much of Chile, seismic tomography allows the identification of anomalies in the field of P and S wave velocities, which are related to potential exploration targets, both at greenfield and brownfield sites. The relevance of this geophysical technique is its depth penetration capacity, and currently new discoveries have been increasing their depth, due to the fact that those with superficial expression are already known. Seismic tomography is a complementary tool to other geophysical, geochemical, geological techniques and information from drilling campaigns, and the current challenge is to integrate all the knowledge of potential exploration targets using tools such as machine learning.

Trials and tests of mechanised mine development equipment

Codelco is building the two largest underground mines in the world and for this process it is contemplating the incorporation of mechanised development technology that allows it to be more efficient in accessing resources, along with improving safety and reducing emissions for its underground operations. Given the AMTC’s experience in research into and application of advanced technology for mining, the work with this centre will play a leading role. It will be in charge, together with Codelco specialists, of the design of tests of mechanised mining systems in Codelco’s underground mines.

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