"Chile has provided stability and institutional certainty , two essential elements for developing a business that is capital intensive."
Can you provide an update on BHP’s recent operations in Chile, including the performance of Spence’s new concentrator?
We are always looking for alternatives and innovations to improve the competitiveness and performance of our operations. A great example is the Spence concentrator, which has progressively improved performance since it started operating in December 2020.
We are also working on the design of new projects, such as a new concentrator at Escondida, leveraging new technologies in sulphide leaching, and implementing innovations in tailings management.
Could you share production highlights at Escondida and Pampa Norte over the past year?
We have successfully navigated a very challenging external context in 2022. In terms of production, Escondida’s results improved by 4% over the previous year, and it continues to be the largest copper mine globally. Pampa Norte’s production rose by 13%, thanks in part to the new concentrator.
How does BHP handle water shortages and drought across Chile?
In Chile we have a long history of using seawater to supply our operations. 15 years ago we invested ~US$4 billion to transition Escondida to desalinated water, and we built the first desalination plant in Chile in 2005.
Escondida operates solely with desalinated water, and we have ceased extracting water from high Andean aquifers at Escondida. Plants such as Spence and its concentrator now also operate with desalinated water.
We see responsible water management as an urgent task for the mining industry and society as a whole.
How do you incorporate advanced technologies in your operations?
Technology and innovation have an important role to play in mining, and we are always exploring new options to improve our processes.
At the moment, we are making progress on the responsible automation of our sites through equipment autonomy and remote operations centers. In addition, through open innovation methodology, we have launched several international challenges to find disruptive solutions for application in our operations. We are also assessing options for using artificial intelligence.
End users are focused on a low carbon footprint and minimal environmental impact at all points along the value chain. How is BHP reducing its emissions and improving its sustainability metrics?
Decarbonizing the mining value chain is an important task for the entire industry. We have a great opportunity ahead: to collaborate in reducing emissions, improving ESG standards, and making mining an increasingly sustainable activity.
In the case of BHP, progress in Scope 1 and Scope 2 has allowed us to significantly reduce our emissions and move forward on our operational decarbonization commitments, thanks to decisions such as supplying our operations with clean energy or moving towards electrifying our truck fleet. Regarding Scope 3 emissions, we are focused on building alliances to contribute to decarbonizing processes such as maritime transit.
As one of the major natural resources companies in the world, we know that we have a great responsibility to provide the commodities that the world needs to move forward on decarbonization, address climate change, and enable the energy transition.
What is the socioeconomic impact of BHP’s operations on local communities?
Rather than impact, I would speak of contribution. When BHP arrives in a territory, our priority is to be able to make a contribution to the people and generate shared benefits. That is what BHP calls Social Value.
It is worth mentioning that as a company we are aware that we have not always done it as well as we could have, but we have learned. Those lessons make us improve every day to minimize potential impact and to continue building a mutually beneficial relationship with local communities.
In your opinion, what are the main pros and cons of operating in Chile in comparison to other mining jurisdictions?
We are proud of our activity in Chile during 30 years and would love to remain working here and contributing to the country. Chile not only has great geological conditions, but also a rich workforce, skilled professionals and excellent suppliers. We deeply appreciate the reception from the communities in the Antofagasta region. This is a wonderful mining country.
During these years, Chile has provided stability and institutional certainty , two essential elements for developing a business that is capital intensive. The country is facing now a period of increasing social demands and changes, but we’ve seen these demands are starting to be solved in an institutional and democratic manner.