Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, has committed to carbon neutrality across all operations and projects by 2050. The campaign, “Five Commitments in Our Hands,” which Codelco launched in December 2020, endeavors to achieve ambitious targets in core areas of clean energy and sustainability. Codelco has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030, its first step toward reaching net-zero scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2050. The company will also increase the recycling of industrial waste by 65 percent and inland water use by 60 percent while improving the stability of tailings. In addition to its environmental commitments, Codelco will take further steps to develop its social impact programs by increasing business with local suppliers by 30 percent, as well as increasing the local workforce.
“We have to build Codelco’ s transformation on a basis that is responsible for the environment and the communities because we are aware of the climactic urgency we are experiencing. We are taking charge of our purpose as a company to strengthen the sustainable development of Chile and the world with defined goals and deadlines.” – Octavio Araneda, Executive President, Codelco
CLEAN ENERGY ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND
To reduce their carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030, Codelco plans to use clean energy sources through innovations in hydrogen fuel and large-scale solar projects, as well as by implementing electrified equipment in underground mines, with the potential to reduce emissions from vehicles by up to 100 percent.
Reducing Carbon Emissions with Electric Vehicles
Codelco has been testing electric vehicles since 2018. In 2019, Codelco introduced hybrid machinery to transport, load and unload ore at its El Teniente mine, the largest underground mine in the world.
In October 2020, Codelco took its electric implementation a step further by launching one of the first all-electric mining light trucks in Chile, the SMT Scharf E-Cruiser, to operate underground at El Teniente. The trucks, constructed by German mining transport manufacturer Scharf, lowers energy costs for ventilation and slashes carbon emissions by 100 percent. The trucks will reduce operating expenses by up to 80 percent and maintenance costs by approximately 30 percent compared with vehicles powered by diesel.
Codelco evaluated this fully electric vehicle throughout 2021 in collaboration with ENGIE, a French energy multinational firm that operates jointly with Scharf. ENGIE led the data monitoring and load management, as well as assessed the truck’s power, resistance and energy consumption.
“We are proud of the process of incorporating electromobility into our sites. By adopting this new technology, we seek to create a better and safer environment to be an environmentally clean site, as well as becoming more economically attractive and at the same time increasing our operational standards.” – Victor Dörner, Project Manager, Development and Innovation Management, El Teniente
Water Vapor Instead of Carbon: Innovating with Hydrogen Fuel
Codelco has commissioned a scalable prototype of a mining vehicle using hydrogen fuel and operating without emissions, the first electric vehicle to do so in Chile. Developed in partnership with Federico Santa María Technical University (UTFSM), the truck will run on fuel cells, supercapacitors and batteries. The vehicle will emit water vapor, which does not pollute the environment. Researchers at UTFSM have completed the design of the vehicle, and officials are testing it in various mining settings to assess its capacity to manage operational challenges, including dust, suspension and vibrations.
“We are focused on developing solutions that contribute to greener and carbon-neutral mining. Today we advance in this pioneering pilot in mining operations which we are betting will open doors for a new phase of green mobility in the industry.” – Axel Leveque, CEO ENGIE Chile
One of the World’s Largest Solar Projects
Coldelco has a strong record of utilizing technological innovations to support sustainability amid challenging environmental conditions. Operating in the Atacama Desert west of the Andes Mountains, Coldelco’s mines are home to most of Chile’s copper. The Atacama is the driest desert on the planet and receives more solar exposure than anywhere else in the world. The 34-Megawatt (Mw) Pampa Elvira solar project is one of the largest solar installations in the world and contributes 54,000 MWh of thermal energy to Codelco’s Gabriela Mistral mine. This project alone replaces 85 percent of fossil fuel used in the mine’s electrowinning process. This transformation eliminates the need to transport 67,000 barrels of diesel to one of the highest elevations on the planet, reducing carbon emissions by 15,000 tonnes annually.
STEPS FOR SUSTAINABILITY
As a part of its five-commitment plan, Codelco has recognized the importance of resource stewardship and environmental impact. To meet its ambitious sustainability goals, the company has committed to supporting conservation, recycling and local communities. Innovation must partner with process to not only reduce carbon emissions but also create a sustainable future for the world’s largest mining operations.
“It is a roadmap that connects us with current global trends and market demands, investors and civil society, with clear and measurable commitments in a matter of sustainable development that will enable our transformation and future.” – Renato Fernández, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs, Codelco
Conserving Water by 60 Percent
Codelco employs cutting-edge techniques to reduce inland water use by 60 percent at its mines, a critical feat given the arid conditions in the Atacama Desert and Andes Mountains. Codelco limits water use by improvements to process efficiency and reuse of water from its tailings’ dams. It has also constructed a $1 billion desalination plant for its Northern District to support an expansion of its Radomiro Tomic mine.
Circular and Sustainable Operations
Codelco is committed to enabling circular operations. The company will reach its goal of recycling 65 percent of its industrial waste by reusing nonhazardous solid waste from its operations, including steel, scrap metal, packaging materials, organic waste and wood. It will also recycle 100 percent of its mining tires.
In addition, Codelco officials are planning to implement new standards in tailings deposits, with 100 percent of deposits meeting world-class standards in sustainability. These standards will feature infiltration control systems and online monitoring systems to support the physical and chemical stability of the deposits.
Increasing Local Connections
Codelco plans to expand its social impact programs by bolstering education around the mining process and supporting local businesses and workers. The company will hire more residents to join its workforce. Codelco has also committed to a 60 percent increase in the goods and services procured from businesses in the region. The company has simplified the process for local suppliers to register with the company, reducing the process to just six steps.
With these critical initiatives, the largest copper miner on the planet will be one of its most sustainable. With the introduction of the 100 percent clean-energy matrix, groundbreaking innovations in electric vehicles and ambitious sustainability projects, Codelco’s commitments are poised to pave the way for positive change the world over.
Based in Santiago and established in 1976, Codelco (Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile or the National Copper Corporation of Chile) is a Chilean state-owned firm and the world’s largest copper miner with 19 percent of global red metal reserves. Codelco is also one of the largest molybdenum producers anywhere with 24,000 tonnes produced in 2018.
About the International Copper Association
The International Copper Association (ICA) brings together the global copper industry to develop and defend markets for copper and make a positive contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., ICA has offices in three primary regions: Asia, Europe and North America. ICA and its Copper Alliance® partners are active in more than 60 countries worldwide.