"One accomplishment we are very proud of at TAKRAF is that we were very successful in finalizing Chuquicamata underground, where we built the largest conveyance system in the world. From a technological point of view, we used gearless technology and the strongest belt in the world called ST 10,000."
How is Tenova structured in Chile and what have been the biggest developments in Tenova’s business over the past three years?
The Chile office is Tenova and Tenova is owned by the Techint group. Tenova is the process and equipment supplier. Tenova mining has three companies: TAKRAF, which is dedicated to material handling, Delkor, which specializes in solid liquid separation, and Tenova Advanced Technology (TAT), which is Israeli and dedicated to process for the mining industry. In Chile we have three areas where we provide services, equipment or plants.
One accomplishment we are very proud of at TAKRAF is that we were very successful in finalizing Chuquicamata underground, where we built the largest conveyance system in the world. From a technological point of view, we used gearless technology and the strongest belt in the world called ST 10,000. In our Delkor segment, we have supplied large thickeners for Peruvian operations, and TAT is entering into the lithium business. Tenova recently finalized the design and supply of the boro removal plant and site services for Albemarle. We developed that in Chile, but we are now designing and providing supplies and site services for the plants at an Argentinian project which will be one of the biggest lithium projects in the world. Our spectrum as a company today is very wide because we can go from the pure mining industry as an equipment and service supplier to providing process and that is the future.
Lithium is a developing industry in Chile and there is a need for solutions that use less water. What is your experience working with lithium in Chile?
To process lithium, you extract the brine, put it in a pond, and leave it there while the sun evaporates the water. What you get is salt, which you later process. That method requires good radiation and a large area. TAT developed a technology so that you can get the brine into a plant and this plant is not any bigger than 100 by 100 meters. Therefore, the footprint that you need is smaller. Secondly, all of the water that is processed in the end is reinjected into the ground and can be reused. These are the types of innovations that are needed to ensure the sustainability of operations in Chile.
How is Tenova contributing to increasing tailings safety?
Tenova developed technology to use dry stack tailing and now we are in a position where we filter or we use a thickener to filter and later on transport by conveyor, so that the deposit is close to dry material. This mitigates the risk of a dam collapse. Today’s market is much more environmentally conscious.
What are the biggest complications with desalination?
Some of the major challenges are the differences in altitude from the sea up to Quebrada Blanca, and up to Collahuasi the difference is 4,300 meters. Plus you have to cross the Andes mountains, so it is a big investment and the opex is huge. There are no other possibilities, because if you do not have water you cannot operate.
What are some of the clearest ways Tenova helps lower opex for clients?
In Chile, some decisions are based on information that will not be made with all the testing needed to make an informed decision. A lot of money gets spent and often companies still do not reach their desired results. If a company spends US$2 billion and expects to produce 100,000 mt/y of copper, and after a couple of years it only produces 50,000 mt/y, they end up spending much more money than anticipated. Today, the investors analyse carefully all of the different aspects of an operation.
How do community relations differ in Chile and Peru?
The communities in Chile are not close to mine operations. Collahuasi and Quebrada Blanca are located at 4,200 meters of elevation and the communities surrounding are close to zero. In Peru, if you are in Quellaveco, the mine is underneath the river, and that river is used by farmers downstream. The distance between the community and the mine are much closer and the impact has the potential to be much more severe. If, for example, mining activities contaminated the water, it would undoubtedly affect farmers downstream. This is less of an issue in Chile.