Chile’s Minera Zaldívar and Colbún S.A. Forge Mining History
As copper demands increase and accessible ore wanes, reliable energy remains paramount for miners everywhere working overtime to meet their 24/7 power needs. Chile’s miners, by deploying clean technology to offset long truck routes and costly diesel, are setting an unprecedented shift across the sector—and the world beyond—just as global needs for environmentally sound mining have grown exponentially.
Given that the mining sector accounts for more than 38 percent of total industrial energy use—and 11 percent of total energy consumption —moreover, few other enterprises are better poised to foster the planetary shift necessary for a carbon-free future. Climate resilience and energy efficiency are also integral to the United Nations-led Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a key framework for the Copper Alliance® and all its member companies.
In the remotest reaches of the Atacama Desert, amid the planet’s most generous reserves, one very special project will spark a new beginning in 2020—when it becomes the world’s very first mine powered by 100 percent green energy.
With nearly two metric tonnes (3.8 billion pounds) of recoverable copper, Minera Zaldívar, co-owned by Barrick Gold Corp. and Antofagasta Minerals, operates in the barely vegetated expanses of the Atacama, 3,200 km above sea level and its closest deep-water shipping facility.
Since operations began in 1995, Zaldívar personnel have stoutly braved one of the earth’s coldest and driest places to ensure their products are successfully transported by rail and truck 196 km southeast to coastal Antofagasta.
In June 2018 officials announced an agreement to grant Colbún S.A., an independent power producer, a ten-year, 550-Gw (Gigawatt) contract to develop energy based on existing and planned wind, solar and hydroelectric-based installations. In all, the asset is forecast to abate 350,000 tons of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs)—equivalent to 87,000 vehicles—per year.
The agreement establishes due diligence verification by an external auditor. Colbún has committed to undertaking studies to prepare for the construction of the 600-Mw (Megawatt) Horizonte wind asset that will be located near Taltal, close to the Argentine border. The agreement provides for a 4-year construction phase and 30-year concession, which will include royalties for the regional government.
“These diversified technologies will not only allow us to deliver 100 percent renewable energy but will also provide a reliable supply at competitive prices.”
– Juan Eduardo Vásquez, Manager of Business and Energy Management Division, Colbún S.A.
Chile, meanwhile, is already Latin America’s fastest-growing green economy. With over 260 alternative energy deployments and a majority of the region’s foreign investments in clean tech, it presents an ideal ecosystem. Encouraged by high-quality infrastructure and a progressive, investor friendly government, Chile’s miners use more clean energy than any other mining jurisdiction in the world.
About Minera Zaldívar – The Zaldívar mine is open pit, and a 50-50 Joint Venture (JV) between Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s top gold miner, and Chilean copper giant Antofagasta Minerals. In 2017, the asset produced 103,000 tonnes of per day (tpd) of cathodes. Its fleet has been progressively upgraded and expanded as the plant feed and truck fleet have 240,000 tpd volume capacity.
About Colbún S.A. – With a diversified renewable energy portfolio, Colbún S.A. is dedicated to energy generation and commercialization with 3,893 Mw of installed capacity in Chile and Peru.
About The Copper Alliance® – The Copper Alliance is a network of regional copper centers and their industry-leading members. It is responsible for guiding policy and strategy and for funding international initiatives and promotional activities. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the organization has offices in four primary regions: Europe and Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America. Copper Alliance programs and initiatives are executed in more than 60 countries through its regional offices and country-level copper promotion centers.