"Recently, the political climate has not been favorable for new exploration, so we have seen a lot of work from brownfield activities, whereby mining operators look at expanding their operations or developing new areas in their deposits. In this respect, we are working on diverse geochemical and metallurgical test projects."
How was Certimin affected by COVID-19?
MC: Certimin has both mine site laboratories and the operations at our headquarters in Lima. Our collaborators at the mines continued working during the pandemic, extending their shifts, but due to the quarantine we had to stop operations at our main facility for around three weeks. In parallel to this, there was a contraction of demand over a few months, but luckily we have already recovered healthy levels of operations and turnover.
JC: Recently, the political climate has not been favorable for new exploration, so we have seen a lot of work from brownfield activities, whereby mining operators look at expanding their operations or developing new areas in their deposits. In this respect, we are working on diverse geochemical and metallurgical test projects.
Can you summarize the main aspects of the geo-metallurgical approach at Certimin?
MC: In exploration, you typically take small samples from many targets, and then you need to project the metallurgical parameters, but the scarcity of core samples makes it difficult to run the metallurgical tests. Together with an important mining company, we worked on a project to introduce a technology that uses an automated pilot plant that handles small amounts of sample and offers the same quality results, or even better quality results than a large pilot plant because of its sophistication in the measurements of all the parameters.
JC: In order to provide solutions for different types of mineral, we expanded our automated flotation plant and today we have 24 flotation cells, 2 vertical regrinding mills, 2 flotation columns and other complementary equipment. The success of metallurgical tests depends on your capacity to look for new processes and be creative. You design a process first, but then this has to change to adapt to the mineralogy of the ore. You need to run some simulations and change some parameters in order to improve the results, and then you can scale that up to an industrial volume.
LB: We were the first company in Peru to integrate metallurgical tests with geochemical analysis. The geo-metallurgical approach also requires that you have a strict sample management from the beginning, so these samples can be conserved and used in metallurgical tests – sometimes several years after drilling. In Certimin, we have developed special procedures for the storage of these samples. In this field we have developed some of the most emblematic projects of the country.
Which contracts have helped mitigate the effects of the pandemic?
LB: There were two factors that helped mitigate the effects of the pandemic. First, in February we won an important contract for mine site laboratories in the gold mines La Arena and Shahuindo, which is a great validation of our work because, since 2010, we have won the bidding processes with three different operators: Rio Alto, Tahoe, and now Pan-American Silver. Whenever you have new owners coming in, companies always revise their contracts and quality services of their suppliers, and we were happy that we continued to be the best option for them. At Certimin, we have as our mission to engage in long-term business relationships, and this is a good example.
Additionally, in the second semester of the year we received the trust to manage the laboratory of the polymetallic mining unit of Cerro Lindo from Nexa Resources.
The second factor is related to junior companies. Some of them are reactivating exploration thanks to high gold and copper prices, and the granting of some important drill permits by the Ministry of Mines this year.
What is Certimin’s current capacity, and how is the company incorporating new technologies and solutions?
MC: Putting together Certimin’s Lima laboratory and the capacity of our preparation facilities in Arequipa, Puno and Cajamarca, we can process 2,000 samples daily in Lima. In terms of new technologies, Certimin currently has three divisions: geochemistry, metallurgy, and environmental, and now we are opening a fourth division for operation support, where we are including new technologies that do not necessarily involve laboratory tests. One of our partners has developed a series of technologies to measure parameters continuously on-line; among these there is a software for tracing COVID-19 within the workforce. As part of our long-standing relationships with Chilean partners, we are also offering automation and robotic systems for fuel handling to mining trucks. Finally, we have partnered up with Glencore Technology Australia and BGRIMM Technology from China who have an active role in scientific research and technology development in the field of comprehensive utilization of mineral resources.
JC: In Peru, we are the official laboratory for Glencore’s technology tests with Isamill and Jameson Cells. There are four large mining companies that already use these technologies, and as these penetrate the market, we expect an increasing demand for our services. In addition, the partnership with BGRIMM Technology will give access to our clients to technological innovations and a wide and diverse experience in mineral processing.