PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Major BHP has cut the ribbon at the new $2.46-billion copper concentrator at its Spence operations, in Chile, which will allow the operation life to extend by 50 years.
BHP told shareholders that the project supported the company’s intention to continue growing in Chile while strengthening its global copper portfolio.
The project has a throughput of 95 000 t/d to produce copper concentrate and molybdenum concentrate, and the new concentrator will enable the expansion of the life of the mine and for it to be part of the community in Chile for an additional 50 years.
The inauguration of the concentrator is part of a global plan by BHP that seeks to reinforce the copper portfolio, strengthening the company's operations in Chile to respond to a global demand for the metal that will double in the coming decades.
BHP CEO Mike Henry was accompanied by the president of BHP Minerals Americas, Rag Udd, the president of BHP Pampa Norte, Cristián Sandoval, the Undersecretary of Mining, Willy Kracht, as well as local authorities and residents of Sierra Gorda and Baquedano.
“This is a significant moment for BHP in Chile, where we have been for more than 30 years and we want to continue on this path of joint development and collaboration. Chile has great opportunities to provide the commodities that the world needs to de-carbonize and improve living standards. But we cannot do it on our own. We need to continue working with industry, government and communities to continue development in a safe, sustainable manner, and to create value for everyone along this way,” said Henry.
Kracht said that Chile’s commitment as a government was to create conditions for harmonious development of mining activity, so that it allowed the country to continue contributing with the necessary minerals to advance in the energy transition.
“From this perspective, we value the industry's efforts to responsibly increase Chilean copper production and I would like to recognize BHP for the great achievement of having completed the construction and commissioning of the Spence concentrator in such a complex context, as the one created by the pandemic,” said Kracht.
During the construction process, which lasted 1 180 days, more than 12 000 workers were employed and it was the only mining project in Chile that did not stop construction during the pandemic.
Water for the new concentrator is supplied by a desalination plant located in Mejillones, which allows Spence to operate exclusively with desalinated seawater, and power for the concentrator is supplied exclusively from renewable sources.
Added to this is the implementation of new flotation technology, which uses 60% less energy and occupies 50% less space than conventional plants. This will generate lower energy consumption and reduced emission of greenhouse gases.
In addition, innovations at Spence include the implementation of a fleet of five drills and 33 autonomous trucks, which will allow progressing in the electrification of material handling processes.