Chile’s Codelco strikes deal with Microsoft to extend automation at its copper mines

FILE PHOTO: A worker at the Codelco Ventanas copper smelter in Ventanas, Chile
FILE PHOTO: A worker monitors a process at the Codelco Ventanas copper smelter in Ventanas, Chile, January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido/File Photo

May 24, 2021

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said on Monday it had struck a deal with tech giant Microsoft to fast-track the digitization of its sprawling mining operations, helping it extend automation and improve analytics.

The joint project with Microsoft will beef up the company’s capacity to make its production processes more efficient and promote “sustainability” within its operations, Codelco said in a statement.

Codelco, like many Chilean miners, has fought in recent years to adopt new technologies to boost efficiency and keep down costs at its aging deposits, many of which suffer from declining ore grades.

“We are promoting profound changes so that different areas operate in a completely remote and automated way, reducing risks, improving productivity, safety and reliability of our operation,” said company executive Alvaro Garcia.

Mining companies worldwide are pushing forward with plans to operate mines remotely, reducing the risk of accidents and boosting efficiency.

The move towards automation however has led to confrontations with unions, who see it as a threat to their livelihoods.

The company said the project with Microsoft will include a training component for the company’s workers.

The state-run miner has recently ramped up its use of technology to ensure its copper is 100% traceable, a vital step in reducing its carbon footprint and boosting sustainability within its operations.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Jan Harvey)