19 de septiembre de 2020
Hispanic World

Chile's El Teniente copper mine uses innovation to compete

By Alberto Peña

By Alberto Peña

Machali, Chile, Jan 26 (efe-epa).- Chile's El Teniente copper mine, the world's largest underground mine, has gone from using donkeys during its early days in 1905 to using remote-controlled dump trucks today, reflecting a commitment to keeping this huge facility viable for another half century in the interior of the Andes.

More than a century has passed since miners using picks and shovels began digging the first tunnels in the mountain, located about 85 kilometers (some 53 miles) south of Santiago.

Since then, technology has become an ally for the mine, which is at the forefront of the Chilean and global mining industries, and is a benchmark for the rest of the sector in the country.

The mine, operated by state-owned Codelco, is now a leading facility at all levels - remote extraction from Rancagua, a city located 50 kilometers away; automated materials transfer; grinding optimization; and the foundry.

El Teniente boasts a complete production chain at an altitude of 3,200 meters in the process of being reinvented to maintain the rate of production for another 50 years, putting the facility on the road to two centuries of operation.

The dusty landscape of rugged semi-desert hills is cut by a road that winds between the ravines until it reaches a small tunnel that gives way to a dark and humid "anthill" in which the "old guys," the workers, in mining lingo, roam around in their orange jumpsuits.

Some 4,248 "worker ants," according to Codelco figures from December 2018, feed this underground monster that continues to produce copper, putting out 465,040 metric tons of the metal in 2018.

El Teniente's copper has been exploited for 115 years and the mine has more than 3,000 kilometers of underground tunnels, or a distance roughly the equivalent of the width of Australia or the shortest distance separating the coasts of South America and Africa across the Atlantic Ocean.

With the help of modern technology, Codelco plans to earn additional profits of $1 billion from the mine starting in 2021, which would mean $200 million more in profits per year.

El Teniente also has two ambitious projects in progress at two new levels below the existing one, at 1,900 and 1,700 meters, respectively, above sea level, but 400 meters below the current mine.

Workers like Cristian Diaz, a mine operator, use the tunnels to dig for copper deep under the Andes.

"It has been modernized quite a bit, it is growing at a super fast rate. Technology has helped to push progress and development faster in every way," Diaz, who has worked for 15 years in the bowels of El Teniente, told EFE.

Innovation and technology will allow Codelco to begin producing in the first of these new levels in 2023 and the deepest in 2024.

The state-owned mining company has doubled its bet on the largest underground mine in the world, hoping to earn average profits of $1.3 billion a year in the next five years, thanks to the capacity of the mine to grow and adapt over time.

"It's a unique experience. It's impressive to work in such a large mine. One day is not enough to travel even a third of the mine. It has grown much more. We'd need days to go through this mine ... It's impressive how much it has grown, the number of people who have worked over the years. It makes me proud to work in the largest mine in the world," Diaz said.

As a benchmark for the hundreds of mines in this South American country, El Teniente is the pride of the industry and, in addition to being the largest mine of its kind in the world, it is also the oldest in Chile.

Tradition and innovation merge in El Teniente's wet and flooded tunnels, which are strewn with cables that grow as one approaches the exit to the surface, like vines that rise between other vegetation in search of sunlight.

Evelyn Jimenez, head of construction for the Diamante project, one of the new production areas in the coming intermediate level, said the incorporation of technology allowed Codelco to increase productivity amid the "challenge" of working in underground mining.

"The incorporation of technology and women has been advancing. That has created an easier environment and creativity has also increased, and the mining culture has changed," the mining engineer told EFE. EFE


Histórico de noticias
Gasoline shortage in Venezuela, new weapon in ongoing political fight

By Ron Gonzalez

At least 17 migrant women subjected to unnecessary surgeries at US detention center

Atlanta, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- At least 17 women were subjected to unnecessary surgeries, including hysterectomies, at a migrant detention center in Georgia, a...

Firefighters continue battling blazes across California

By Alex Segura Lozano

Six months of quarantine, an eternity in Venezuela

By Sabela Bello

After court reversal, TPS beneficiaries seek to be heard in US

By Luis Uribe

Apple unveils all-new iPad Air with advanced chip, but holds off on iPhone

By Marc Arcas

Authorities concerned over forest fire near Los Angeles

By Alex Segura Lozano

Trump: 5 more nations to establish diplomatic ties with Israel soon

Washington, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump said Tuesday that "five more countries" will soon establish diplomatic ties with Israel, his remarks...

Mexican to participate in first LatAm space mission

Mexico City, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- A researcher with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Jose Alberto Ramirez Aguilar, will participate in the...

Trump visits California to check on fires, Biden calls him climate arsonist

San Francisco, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Monday landed in California, where he met with emergency teams to learn the latest about the...

Oracle acknowledges accord with ByteDance to be TikTok partners in US

San Francisco, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- US software giant Oracle on Monday officially announced its agreement with China's ByteDance to become partners in...

Migrant kids studying remotely while stranded in Tijuana

By Carlos Zúñiga

Bermuda braces for Hurricane Paulette

San Juan, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- The island of Bermuda is bracing for the impact of Hurricane Paulette, which is expected to make its closest approach the...

Weather gives US firefighters a break, but forecast is worrisome

By Marc Arcas

Biden seeks advantage amid controversy surrounding Trump's Covid-19 lies

By Susana Samhan

Trump announces he'll pull 4,000 US troops from Afghanistan

Washington, Sep 10 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that within a "short period of time" he will withdraw up to 4,000 US troops...

Violence, the other pandemic New York is fighting

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

Venezuelans helping Venezuelans: Aid networks mitigating Covid-19 crisis

By Gonzalo Dominguez Loeda

Trump adds ambassador to Mexico to list of possible Supreme Court nominees

Washington, Sep 9 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Wednesday updated his list of possible nominees to the Supreme Court - if a seat or seats open up...

Trump: I downplayed Covid-19 threat so as not to create panic

Washington, Sep 9 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he tried to contain "panic" and avoid a "frenzy" in the investment markets when...

More than 40 California blazes burning in worst-ever fire season

By Alex Segura Lozano

Food prices skyrocket in Brazil exhausted by Covid-19 crisis

By Alba Santandreu

Hundreds of thousands of homes without power in California due to fires

By Marc Arcas

Peru starting to beat COVID-19 after 700K cases, 30K deaths

By Alvaro Mellizo