"Integrating advanced technologies that improve conveyor belt productivity is our central challenge, both to oversee rollers and pulleys operations, and to avoid or reduce fire risk."
How does STM support the mining industry?
STM has been delivering bulk material handling solutions for more than 50 years. Our equipment is 100% tailor made. We work under the OEM model, that is, we have in-house engineering, and based on the specific requirements requested by our clients, we integrate the different suppliers to deliver a solution that fully satisfies their needs.
We principally manufacture in-plant conveyor belts and belt feeders. We also supply overland conveyor belts, ship loaders, and tripper conveyors. And when necessary, our in-house engineering team works to improve older systems to make them more efficient.
Can you provide an update on STM’s operations over 2022?
At the beginning of 2022, the year looked quite promising for STM, but it took a while for that progress to materialize. However, in the last part of the year, we experienced an explosion in projects. Those projects were primarily brownfield; historically, we have had more greenfield projects, and today the majority are brownfield. However, there has been a noticeable drop in new projects compared to previous years.
We focus on the Chilean and Peruvian markets and have a solid customer base in Chile. One of our competitive advantages is that our supply chain is locally integrated, and we supply different components regionally.
Has negative investor sentiment impacted your projects?
Due to regulatory uncertainty and the challenges in gaining investment, clients approach decision-making and project decisions differently. Previously, the client would commit up front to a complete project, beginning to end, and be willing and able to advance significant sums to carry out not only the engineering design but also the purchases, and so on. Now, however, they are focused on reducing risk in their investment. Therefore, we have adapted our business model to allow clients to commit to smaller project segments to respond to this.
How can Chile incentivize investment?
A vital step would be for the government to streamline and simplify the process of permitting and environmental authorizations. In the Anglo American Los Bronces project and others, we have witnessed the ramifications of uncertain permitting after years of intense effort to meet regulatory expectations. The time it takes to receive an individual permission has increased to four or five years, which delays all process steps.
How do you utilize digital tools?
Integrating advanced technologies that improve conveyor belt productivity is our central challenge. One of our providers just finished developing an exciting technology for us that enables continuous oversight of rollers and pulleys operations, allowing the client to have complete information. Additionally, advanced technology can avoid or reduce fire risk. Last year in the mining industry, there were at least three or four fires that I know of. Many of these fires were caused by conveyor belt components overheating, and these sensors identify overheating before it turns into flames.
Why do you see more momentum in the mining technology space?
There is a generation shift, and many younger people with more interest in advanced technologies are now in positions of power. I am optimistic that we will see significant investment in technology and a broader willingness within the industry to adapt to and incorporate new innovations that improve productivity.
How do your products lower carbon footprints?
Using conveyor belts to transport materials rather than trucks is noticeably more energy-efficient, lowering the carbon footprint of the mine. The mine utilizes less energy with every truck that is not on the road. Our processes are optimized and engineered to ensure the individual client receives the highest possible benefits. STM does not just pull a product off the shelf but offers individualized services with our designers that precisely fit the client's needs.
What is your focus for the coming year?
STM continuously identifies how we can improve our support for our clients. As a result, we are significantly more agile and adaptable than many others in the industry. For example, we carried out a ship loading project when a ship loader collapsed suddenly in nine months when other providers would have taken up to two years to do it because their operations are located outside of South America.
We have always focused on staying as close to the client as possible and will continue investing in that. STM will also continue to prioritize process optimization in everything that we do.