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Chilean mines’ demand for clean energy solutions could be met by local businesses – report

Since August 2022, Codelco started using electric buses to shuttle workers to and from its El Teniente mine. (Image by Codelco.)

A recent study conducted by the Santa María Technical University, the National Piloting Center and consultancy agency Phibrand shows that there is a significant demand from miners operating in Chile for solutions that allow them to join the clean energy transition.

According to the report, such demand could be met by local companies as long as they ramp up the production of green fuels and their manufacturing capabilities when it comes to electrifying mining fleets.

The study, which involved a series of interviews with suppliers, industry experts and representatives from the main mining companies operating in the country, revealed that the conversion of small and medium-sized equipment and machinery is a potential business opportunity and is an efficient way to push the country towards a greener future.

Speaking at a panel discussion during the presentation of the report, Gonzalo Ramírez, one of Codelco’s electromobility experts, said that mining companies, and Codelco in particular, must speed up their decarbonization efforts by dealing with challenges such as renewing electricity contracts, achieving a 100% electric underground mining, reducing emissions in their pits by at least 10%, and promoting a green hydrogen market for mining applications. 

“We see these changes as disruptive innovations in the energy supply chain of our operations,” Ramírez said.

The study also identified barriers that would hinder the development of the opportunities that the industry requires for the energy transition.

Among such obstacles are the lack of spaces for piloting and validating new technologies; low levels of technological adoption; a gap between the goal of contributing to reducing emissions and the investments needed to do so; a lack of incentives for the mining sector to invest in manufacturing or converting equipment, and the need for training and new professional skills.

“The purchasing power, the will and the interest exist. But these technologies must materialize today, in the early stages of the energy transition,” Cristian Mansilla, general manager at Phibrand, said during the panel discussion.

“A quick conversion to electromobility and synthetic fuels, which includes both the production and distribution of these solutions, is key. If companies don’t take the step now, they won’t be able to compete in the market in the future.”