"Currently, we are conducting a study for a major mining company in Chile to build a command center in Antofagasta that will allow them to remotely control their plan operations using artificial intelligence and automation, thus minimizing their operational cost and increasing their safety."
What is the core business of Wood in the mining sector and what are your most promising areas for growth?
Wood has approximately 1000 employees here in Chile, with most of them devoted to mining. In the engineering area, Wood’s complete services add value across the mine life cycle. Wood´s service lines handle mineral resource and project evaluations, mine planning and design, mineral processing and metallurgy, engineering design and project management, environmental permitting and water management services, automation and control, and construction. The automation and control group directly supports our clients in leading their digital and technological transformation efforts towards operating the mine of the future.
Can you tell us about the opportunities you see for Wood in tailings and your offerings in that area?
Wood´s environment and infrastructure group assists our clients in the tailings area. Wood has been retained by several of our clients to be the Engineer of Record (EoR) for their tailings facilities here in Chile, and we are assisting them in the development of safer operation protocols and tailings disposal alternatives such as dry stacking and thickened tailings, to lower the chances of a dam failure. Globally, the industry has had dam failures, which have raised safety issues related to the operation and design of tailings facilities, and because of this, we are spending a bit of time in finding solutions for these challenges.
Can you elaborate on any lithium projects that Wood is working on?
Globally Wood is involved in several lithium projects. In Chile, currently we are working on the La Negra project, located close to Antofagasta. We are executing an EPCM contract for the construction of a lithium carbonate plant that extracts the mineral from the Salar de Atacama. We have a similar lithium project in Australia.
What is the role that automation, data analytics, and robotics will play in the future of mining?
Within Wood’s technical consulting solutions (TCS) we have a large group called automation and control (A&C). The A&C group has been leading innovation in the manufacturing industry for many years. This expertise has been levered to support our mining clients with their digital transformation and innovation efforts to design the “mine of the future.” We are working with clients in Latin America to implement new technological innovation strategies that will allow them to incorporate big data into their decision making. Currently, we are conducting a study for a major mining company in Chile to build a command center in Antofagasta that will allow them to remotely control their plan operations using artificial intelligence and automation, thus minimizing their operational cost and increasing their safety.
How has the demand been for Wood’s technology services?
In the past the mining industry has been a bit slow in the adoption of new technologies but now, because of the necessity for increased efficiency and productivity, clients are keen to be at the forefront of early adoption.
How can Wood’s Services boost efficiency in energy?
Within Wood, we have a group called clean energy, which works with solar, wind, and hydro energy. The clean energy group is assisting clients with installing these systems within mines to power certain operations with more sustainable sources of energy. The use of renewable sources of energy helps our clients to manage their costs on energy consumption. Wood has installed five million solar panels in the United States for clients, so we have distinct expertise in the area of energy.
What strategies does Wood aim to achieve in Chile over the next 2-3 years?
Our vision for the company is to assist clients in two areas. One is in energy transition materials. Here, we want to be involved with anything dealing with electrification. That means copper, lithium, nickel, and cobalt and we are developing our expertise in all of those areas. The second area is sustainable building, which is about helping in water and energy, which are the main building blocks in Chile going forward.
What are your views on the Chilean mining market in 2020?
I am optimistic about 2020. We have had some troubling times in the last few months and I hope that it does not impact the mining industry in Chile. Chile has been a success story in mining because it has been a stable and transparent place to do business. We know what to expect in terms of taxes and laws and, as long as those remain stable, then this is a great environment. If any of those start to move then people will start thinking twice about their investments.