Changes in its energy matrix with a turn towards NCRE, especially solar, and the acceptance of the EIA for the project that seeks to optimize its tailings deposit, among other facilities, are some of the mining company’s focus for this year. It was one of the last operations that entered the scene in the Chilean mining industry before the end of the copper super cycle took place. It is Sierra Gorda SCM, a deposit located in the Antofagasta region and where one of the owners is the Polish KGHM. Five years after its launch, its path has had ups and downs. Since it began operating, it has registered financial problems, to the point that its numbers reflected losses of over US $ 2.5 billion at the beginning. But today the scenario is different. The miner has managed to reverse the losing streak, reaching, according to their own executives, “a definitive stabilization, with a healthy box and a greater recovery of molybdenum.” In fact, 2019 was consolidated as the period with the best results since the inauguration of the mine. “In addition to this, our project was designed incorporating structural efficiencies, among which are the first mining operation in Chile to use high pressure grinding rollers, in addition to using seawater without desalination, resulting from the discarding of the cooling process of a thermoelectric plant in Mejillones ”, say in Sierra Gorda SCM.
Optimizing your tailings deposit
But in order to improve its operational performance to increase production, the Regional Directorate of the Environmental Assessment Service of Antofagasta recently welcomed the Environmental Impact Study for the project “updating the tailings deposit and annexed facilities”. With an investment of US $ 400 million, the initiative aims to optimize the operation of the mine tailings deposit. This considers the reduction of the height of the walls of the tailings deposit, “which reduces the movement of associated material and improves the stability of the walls,” says the company itself. Along with this, the project contemplates the increase of the deposit surface, which increases the evaporation rate of the tailings deposit and minimizes the occurrence of infiltrations.
With this initiative in the pipeline, what are the mining company’s challenges for 2020? Among the challenges contemplated by the task, the change in its energy matrix stands out, in order to be able to fulfill the commitments of decarbonization. “For this, we estimate that from 2023 the shift towards unconventional energies, especially solar energy, will gradually begin,” assert Sierra Gorda SCM.
From an operational point of view, meanwhile, the most important point is to continue with the sustained improvement of results and continue to review its internal processes. The idea? “Make the operation pay for itself, avoiding having to continue asking for financial support from the companies that own it,” they say at the firm.
Source: Daniela Tapia New Mining and Energy Magazine