Category: Minería

Project ‘Design and Construction of Future Scenarios’ for Codelco, El Teniente Division

The context in which the Chilean mining industry operates is quickly changing due to a multitude of economic, social and environmental factors; three of the operational aspects that are most affected are water resources, tailings management and the relationship with communities. The Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) from The University of Queensland, and the International Centre of Excellence in Chile (SMI-ICE-Chile), along with El Teniente Division of Codelco recently worked on the development of a roadmap of programs and projects for the operation focused on addressing the current and future challenges associated with water, tailings and social performance management to support the division’s drive towards a more sustainable future.

The process involved four stages which allowed learning in depth about the existing context and dynamics, an analysis of the trends and the relevant best practices, the construction of possible future scenarios and their characteristics, and the development of a vision and plan of action. All processes were highly interactive and included frequent meetings and workshops to ensure the participation and input from Codelco’s team and a deep collaboration with the SMI specialists. The work was successfully completed with a series of reports, a roadmap and a video of the project. The roadmap document and the video are available in the following links.

The full document of the Roadmap is HERE (in Spanish)

You can see the project video in YouTube:


University of Queensland Partners with Industry to Tackle Water Supply Concerns in Chile

The Sustainable Minerals Institute’s International Centre of Excellence in Chile (SMI-ICE-Chile) is partnering with Mitsubishi Corporation subsidiary M.C. Inversiones Limitada (MCI) to provide Chilean industries and society with sustainable water supply system planning tools.

top left: Mr Yasuharu Tanaka, Senior Vice President, M.C.Inversiones Limitada, Dr Doug Aitken, Sustainability Project Leader, SMI-ICE-Chile, Dr David Mulligan, Executive Director, SMI-ICE-Chile and Mr Tadashi Mizuno, CEO, M.C.Inversiones Limitada

The smart tools will assist in designing optimised water supply systems that minimise economic costs and environmental impacts by taking into account local contexts and conditions. Water consumption across most sectors in Chile is increasing and availability is declining, causing concerns for continued industrial productivity, ecosystem health and society in general.

SMI-ICE-Chile researchers will lead the three-year project, working in close collaboration with MCI, colleagues at The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) and a number of local partners in Chile. SMI-ICE-Chile Sustainability Leader Dr Doug Aitken said the tools will be key to ensuring the sustainability of water management.

“Both the Sustainable Minerals Institute and M.C. Inversiones see water scarcity and sustainable water resource management as an enormous challenge for the future of Chilean industry and society. New smart tools that identify opportunities and support decision making have a huge amount of potential to unlock optimizations across many important sectors.”

Copiapo valley, Chile

SMI-ICE-Chile Executive Director Professor David Mulligan said the new relationship with Mitsubishi is a step towards addressing Chile’s water challenges. “Our partnership with the Mitsubishi Corporation is a very exciting step towards helping address Chile’s water resource management challenges and we are looking forward to working closely with their team in Chile to develop solutions and open up new opportunities.”

M.C. Inversiones Chief Executive Officer Mr. Tadashi Mizuno welcomed the value and opportunities of the research partnership. “We are delighted to begin collaborating with UQ’s SMI-ICE-Chile on this project which we believe will support the development of important solutions to address the challenge of water scarcity in Chile, and which we believe will also contribute to the sustainability agenda of the mining industry, a sector in which we have been actively participating,” he said.


Further Information: Dr. Doug Aitken,

JKMRC and JKTech Integrate Under One Management Structure

Dear Colleagues

We are pleased to inform you that The University of Queensland’s Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) and UQ Holding’s technology transfer company JKTech, are integrating their activities under a single management structure.

We believe this move will consolidate and strengthen both organisations and ensure our clients are receiving the benefits of innovative research, expertise in technology based consulting, laboratory services, software, specialist equipment, and professional development.

The strategic direction of JKMRC and JKTech will be further enhanced by the appointment of Professor Neville Plint to the role of JKTech’s Managing Director in addition to his role as Director of UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute. He will be ably supported by Professor Rick Valenta (Acting Director, JKMRC), Paul Napier (Chief Financial Offider, JKTech), Bevin Wong (Operations Manager, JKTech), and Associate Professor Marcin Ziemski who is taking on a role of commercial lead working across JKTech and JKMRC. In Latin America, all of JKTech’s activity have integrated and will be carried out through the International Centre of Excellence in Chile, SMI-ICE-Chile, with Professor David Mulligan as Executive Director.

JKMRC was established in 1970 and JKTech was set up in 1986 as their commercial division. In 2000 JKMRC became part of UQ’s newly established Sustainable Minerals Institute and JKTech became an incorporated company the following year.

While the teams of both organisations have worked closely over the past years, this announcement sees a return to a unified management whilst also preserving JKTech’s corporate and technical identity.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us via or

Thank you for your continued support, we look forward to working with you in the future to find solutions to the challenges facing the resources industry.

Kind Regards

Professor Neville Plint
Director, Sustainable Minerals Institute
Managing Director, JKTech


Dr Barry Kelly
Chair, JKTech Board



See full article about the integration on the SMI website:

Update from SMI-ICE-Chile: Business Continues Despite Strict Quarantine Measures

SMI-ICE-Chile Team

Chile has had a country-wide curfew between 10pm and 5am since late March, and the team at SMI’s International Centre of Excellence office in Santiago has experienced strict government imposed quarantine measures to contain the spread of the virus. They are self-isolating, social distancing and wearing face masks when venturing outside and overall, everyone has been managing the situation excellently.

Amidst the challenges and new work protocols, the industry has shown their continuous confidence in the projects that SMI-ICE-Chile carries out. As expected, some projects had to postpone meetings and site visits until such activities can be re-scheduled. However, some pending contracts have now been confirmed with new projects kicking off in the near future.

Visit to the lab  in the Chemical Engineering Department, Univ. de Chile (BHP/MEL Gangue Leachability Project) 

In 2019, SMI-ICE-Chile began a research project focussed on the behaviour of gangue minerals in copper heap leach performance at BHP’s Minera Escondida. The project looks at how gangue solubilization and re-precipitation affects copper recovery, proving to be a great opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary research team, involving the BHP Process Innovation team, the Advanced Mining Technology Center (AMTC) from Universidad de Chile, the Institute for Economic Geology from the Universidad de Concepción, and the local SMI-ICE-Chile team. More sophisticated characterisation of samples from the testwork that is carried out at laboratory scale, is expected to be performed at the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at The University of Queensland. The project is scheduled to continue into 2021 and should result in the testing at pilot scale of different pre-treatment options prior to the heap leach to minimise the detrimental impact of certain gangue minerals on process performance.

Another key project in Chile is the energy efficiency study carried out upon request from CAP Minería’s magnetite ore Pellet Plant in Huasco. The study provided a great opportunity for the SMI team to join forces with the Advanced Mining Technology Centre (AMTC) from Universidad de Chile and looks at the opportunities for enhanced energy efficiency both from the point of view of plant configuration and operation, and automation and control. The scope of work was defined and aligned with the Mine Energy Transformation and Integration program from JKMRC, and SMI researchers participated in the initial site visit and several of the subsequent project activities. Part of this project was the thesis study performed by Solange Vera, a recent metallurgical program graduate from the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María who used the JKSimMet software to model opportunities in the grinding/classification circuit. A combination of different alternatives in both the process and control have been identified, that will allow CAP Minería to reduce the specific energy consumption by approximately 10% in the pellet plant.

The research team visit the Pellets Plant in Huasco


At the same time, a project with Codelco’s El Teniente Division to develop a strategic roadmap for water resources and tailings management to address possible future scenarios considering economic, social and environmental changes is coming to completion. The project included five workshops that involved staff from El Teniente and SMI, who worked on discussing and understanding key themes through numerous activities. Due to current circumstances, the final event of the project had to be postponed.

In the area of water management, the team has also been working on a benchmarking study of best practices in water resource management for the Chilean copper mining industry in partnership with the International Copper Association. Our researchers interviewed numerous water resource managers of some of the principal mine operations in Chile to understand how practices are changing, what novel techniques are being implemented to improve general management and water use efficiency, and about future strategies for each of the companies.

Felipe Saavedra, mid-presentation for the Fundación Copec-UC Project

In the areas of mine closure and integrated waste management, SMI-ICE-Chile has been awarded a 24-month R&D fund from Fundación Copec-UC, a group based out of Universidad Católica de Chile, to co-develop and scale-up a technology for acid mine drainage (AMD) prevention. The project will involve laboratory and field-scale testing with porphyry Cu mine tailings and waste rock from a mine operation in Chile. This AMD preventive solution could dramatically decrease economic costs associated with current AMD treatment measures during both operational and mine closure phases, and importantly, contribute to improving the water quality accessible by surrounding communities and ecosystems. When this project is completed, the team hopes to continue scaling up this development through industrial scale testing at different mining operations in Chile and beyond.


Originally published in the SMI website:

SMI COVID-19 Update

Dear Colleagues

Uncertainty resulting from COVID-19 has created many challenges for us all. At the Sustainable Minerals Institute, we have been working to prepare an action plan that allows for business and research continuity while ensuring the protection, health and well-being of our staff and research partners.

As part of The University of Queensland, we are following government advice, and as of 26 March, have implemented working from home measures for all staff who are able to do so. Our St Lucia and Indooroopilly offices remain open allowing critical staff and those involved in laboratory work to continue safely with their projects.

All staff working from home are equipped with computers, internet and online meeting capabilities so business continues as normal, although in a virtual world for the time being. Across SMI our team is focused on delivering against the recently revised strategic plan and associated projects.

We will continue to operate in this way until advised otherwise by federal or state government. The situation is fluid, but we believe we are in a strong position to navigate changing circumstances.

There has been an impact on a number of our professional development courses, and we have postponed all face-to-face delivery of courses until at least June. The Acid Metalliferous Drainage Workshop (AMD) has also been postponed, but we are hopeful it will take place later this year.

We are continuing to run our JKMRC Friday seminar series via webinar, and you can find details of each week’s seminar here. We are also working on a number of new podcasts to keep you up to date with our latest research, and you can keep in touch with our daily work via our Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

If you have any concerns regarding the delivery of any of your projects or programs with SMI, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for your continued support of SMI, I hope you and your families stay safe and well through this difficult time.

Kind Regards


Professor Neville Plint

Sustainable Minerals Institute
The University of Queensland


Originally published in the SMI website:

The Relevance of Dialogue: Beyond Social Licence to Operate

Between January 13 and 17, the SMI Centre of Excellence in Chile, along with the Australian Embassy and the Centre for Public Policy from the Catholic Univ. hosted a week of activities with visiting expert Pam Bourke called “Opportunities for Deepening Dialogue” in January 2020. Activities included workshops, meetings and training events with a number of public and private sector organisations and NGOs who are seeking to enhance their engagement and dialogue with community members and organisations in Chile in a time of crisis.

The social and political crisis that Chile has been living through since October 18, 2019, has renewed the relevance and the need for dialogue. Dialogue plays a fundamental role, for example, among social groups who want to express their demands or propose their ideas in light of a constitutional change, or among diverse political sectors trying to reach agreements of benefit to a nation’s citizens. “Dialogue” once again resonates as one of the primary skills to address social conflicts.

One of the key aspects to work on when designing the spaces necessary for successful dialogue is to acknowledge that distrust still exists amongst those communities that are most affected by the activities of mining companies. Dealing with this reality is essential if we want to move towards truly sustainable mining operations. In 2002, nine of the world’s largest mining companies commissioned the report Breaking New Ground: Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development[i]. While the report demonstrated an industry with the capacity for bringing economic benefits at the national and local levels, findings regarding many of the localised, negative social impacts were not favourable. High levels of distrust among the interested parties and the constant threats by various opposition groups, inequality of impacts and the growing gap between the recipients of benefits, were serious aspects that the industry had to address in a structural way.

Concepts such as citizen participation, social license to operate, and community development quickly achieved popularity within the community relations functions of mining companies. These terms were mobilised both in industry community engagement practices in impacted territories, and within company end-of-year sustainability reporting. Hodge (2014) noted a paradox here. Despite increasing industry uptake of these concepts, there was little evidence of a reduction in conflict between communities and companies, and increasingly greater local resistance to mining operations. Communities were no longer willing to accept without question the measures imposed by industry or government that restricted or limited opportunities to freely decide on the development of their territories, of their futures.

In addressing mistrust and tensions within impacted territories, the challenge becomes how to reach a mutual consensus between the mining sector and local communities. Unilateral and short-term efforts to build community relations will only damage the relationships of trust between parties. According to Hodge, differences in many cases arise when “common ground has not been established between the different values held by a community, an adjacent mine, a host indigenous population, or a national government” (Hodge, 2014, p30)[ii]. Failure by mining companies to adequately address these different values when seeking to improve their social performance leaves the concepts they use at risk of becoming empty signifiers, imprecise and open to the industry´’s interpretation.

One turning point in this issue has been an examination of the meaning and use that the mining industry has given to the concept “social license to operate”. An idea widely used by industry, social license to operate is an approach that is today increasingly criticized by academia. A “license”, often mobilised to validate the predefined indicators of the industry’s own standards and programs of service delivery to impacted communities, falls short of reflecting the urgency for community participation processes that are respected and heeded by companies. While it is understood as a metaphor, social license itself is an indication of how companies choose, or not, to understand and meet the expectations of impacted parties.

Those directly impacted by mining operations do not think about social licence. Their concerns are linked to wellbeing, survival, job opportunities, impacts to basic resources such as clean water and land, noise and dust pollution, in-migration, protection of heritage sites, loss of culture, among others. They think about their quality of life after the mine. To stop and think about their real concerns, quality of life before and after the operation, is to begin to become aware and to begin to talk about dignity and respect. These are key aspects for a successful and genuine dialogue process, establishing the foundations for the construction of long-term relationships. This is a fundamental aspect identified previously by researchers John Owen and Deanna Kemp[iii] from The University of Queensland’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, in the detection of possibilities for territorial development that is truly sustainable.

The design of a genuine and successful dialogue system should be a thorough process, which includes all the improvements, adaptations and changes required to really obtain, beyond a design document, a live system of stakeholders, institutions and processes that aids in the creation of legitimate mutual debate spaces, problem resolution, and the detection of possibilities.

If the mining industry really would like to make changes toward successful dialogue processes, beyond policy frameworks external to companies, the implementation of dialogue will imply important and conscientious internal changes. This means that we not only need to take on the development of community capacities for dialogue, but also the sector must acknowledge the new challenges in the relationships with stakeholders, and to make internal changes that will probably be required for this to be achieved.

Within any dialogue framework that is agreed upon as an industry, the key issues of any social conflict will not be made visible in terms of social license, but in terms of living in an environment free of contaminants, of greater social justice, respect, and deliberate participation. It is important that companies position themselves at the heart of this debate.

Our current changing scenario demands that companies focus on positive contributions in the long-term, that promote the post-closure development of communities over the more technical, and more easily quantifiable, actions for impact mitigation. This more transactional approach promoted by the industry’s interpretation of the concept of “social license” prioritizes operational continuity for the company over broader and more complex expectations that arise from impacted territories. This approach limits the possibilities of building sustainable relationships for these projects, during the operational life of the mine, and beyond. To have a truly constructive and symmetrical dialogue, the mining industry must think about how it wants to add value to its communities, based on an open and honest dialogue with them, to meet without conditions, open to the challenges that will come both during times of calm and in times of crisis, such as those we are currently living in Chile.

[i] Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development. 2002, Breaking New Ground: Mining, Minerals, and Sustainable Development: The Report of the MMSD Project, Earthscan Publications.

[ii] Hodge, RA 2014, Mining company performance and community conflict: moving beyond a seeming paradox’, Journal of Cleaner Production vol. 84 December 2014 pp 27-33.

[iii] Owen, JR & Kemp, D 2013, ‘Social licence and mining: A critical perspective’, Resources Policy, vol. 38, 1, pp 29–3.

The 1st Cobalt Workshop in Chile Ended Successfully

The International Centre of Excellence from the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI-ICE-Chile) at the University of Queensland organized the first workshop focused on cobalt in Santiago, Chile on November 20. With presenters from 11 organizations and over 80 participants including academics, students, and professionals from supplier, consulting and mining companies, the workshop evidenced the wide-spread interest from the industry for this element present in mineral deposits in our country, and representing the great potential for future research, work and marketable byproducts.

The workshop was opened by Neville Plint, Director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute in Australia, who was in Chile that week. The first session focused on the supply and demand. Francisco Acuña from CRU and Alejandro Muñoz from the Chilean Cobalt Corporation spoke about the cobalt market in the world and in Chile, respectively. Brian Townley from Universidad de Chile, presented about the potential in the country regarding cobalt from a geological point of view, including a metallurgical outlook to find opportunities for its exploration, and eventual recovery, through current copper processes.

In the second session, Héctor Suazo from SGS Minerals, Juan Pablo González from GeoMine and Alejandro Quilodrán from Solvay discussed about cobalt from ore. Romke Kuyvenhoven from SMI-ICE-Chile commented that cobalt is associated to pyrite, an aspect that yet to be studied in depth. An issue that must be addressed and developed in detail, to allow learning and facilitating cobalt production as a byproduct. She mentions that the most feasible method to recover this metal would include stages such as pyrite flotation > pyrite-concentrate leaching > cobalt precipitation.

For the third session, after lunch, Iván Nancucheo from Univ. San Sebastián and Rodolfo Rodríguez from SAM Consultants spoke about cobalt as a secondary resource. The latter emphasized cobalt recovery from batteries, focused on applying aspects of circular economy. The fourth and last session focused on industrial case studies, where Leonardo Parraguez from Pucobre and Milton Rojas from Andes Iron commented on recovery and flotation of cobalt in seawater, and the cobalt business model in the copper and iron industries, correspondingly. Javier Quevedo’s presentation (SMI-ICE-Chile), was of great interest to the audience, seen in the number of questions made, and the novelty of his research about the distribution of cobalt in pyrite crystals, and the impact this generates in the potential resource exploitation. Also, he introduced and showed results of an analysis technique that has not yet been used in this type of study, and from a geometallurgical focus, uniting the views of geologists and metallurgists.

For 2020 a second version of the workshop is being considered, which will cover some of the less emphasized topics, such as the necessary efforts to characterize, recover and process elements of value from tailings, as well as cobalt electrowinning processes or the secondary product precipitation, along with the search for new products and byproduct that promote, together with copper, the economy of Chile, always considering the economic, social and environmental potential this entails.

Cobalt Exploitation in Chile

Chilean mining has diversified, and even when copper still dominates the national economy, lithium, gold, iron, cobalt and others have positioned themselves within the interest of both public and private entities. Electromobility has placed lithium in the forefront of the national market, however, cobalt has proven to be as important for low carbon technologies, and in Chile it is naturally occurring. According to the World Bank, by 2050 cobalt production will increase from 110 kt to 644 kt, which means an increase of 585%. Chile and other countries must take advantage of the current situation, ahead of the incipient demand, in order to become leaders in production technologies and knowledge of cobalt. For this, the geology, the metallurgical extractive processes, and the market conditions must be known and studied for this chemical element.

During the 19th and 20th centuries cobalt was exploited for armament production and superalloys, since it has a melting point over 1100°C, meaning it is a chemical element that resists very high temperatures before melting. Also, it has an important role in electromobility, since the chemical properties of cobalt allow it to work as a substratum that allows a redox (oxidation-reduction) reaction in Li-ion batteries to work up to 3 times more. In the past, cobalt was exploited in Chile from cobalt deposits (for example, La Cobaltera, San Juan or Tambillos), however currently cobalt has been found to be related to pyrite mineralization due to its affinity with iron. Based on this, different types of mineral deposits could be interesting for cobalt exploitation, primarily iron deposits located in the ferriferous belt, along the coastal mountain range. Added to this, SMI-ICE Chile has recently studied some mineral deposits located along this belt, evidencing presence of cobalt in pyrite crystals.

For the first time in Chile, SMI-ICE will host a technical workshop specially focused on this mineral. The activity will gather the primary advocates of the potential of cobalt as main- or by product, in existing or future mining operations. The workshop will focus on identifying opportunities, sharing experiences and discussing challenges related to the recovery of cobalt. The program includes an introduction by the organizers, and presentation sessions on topics such as Cobalt Demand and Supply; Cobalt from Ore; Cobalt from Secondary Resources and Recycling; and Industrial Case Studies.

Mining industry professionals with interest in knowing more about this element are invited to participate on November 20 from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm at Sheraton Santiago Hotel. Registrations are open to participants of the Procemin-Geomet 2019 conference. More information at

Questions to

Consultas generales

+56 2 2307 9710


Sustainable Minerals Institute International Centre of Excellence Chile
The University of Queensland

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