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Antofagasta Minerals  – 2021 Supplier Challenges

Antofagasta Minerals created the Innovaminerals platform to communicate operational challenges it has from its various mines to suppliers with the goal of generating real solutions. They recently published their challenges for 2021 which had some interesting insights and opportunities for national and international mining suppliers. 

We have provided a summary below and republished the main document so that international companies have better visibility of potential opportunities in an exciting mining company. 

Overview of Antofagasta Minerals in Chile


Minera Los Pelambres –  Los Pelambres is a sulphide deposit located in the Coquimbo region of Chile, 240 kilometers north of Santiago. Los Pelambres produces copper concentrate – which mainly contains gold– and molybdenum concentrate, through a milling and flotation process. The mine started operations in 1999 and is expected to operate until 2050. 

Minera Centinela –  Minera Centinela was established in 2014 and is expected to operate until 2061. The mine is located in the Antofagasta region of Chile, 1,350 kilometers north of Santiago, in an important mining area with deposits of sulfides and oxides. Centinela produces copper concentrates –mainly containing gold– through a milling and flotation process in the sulphide line; and copper cathodes using a solvent extraction and electrowinning (SX-EW) procedure on the oxide line.

Minera Antucoya – Minera Antucoya is a copper oxide deposit located approximately 125 kilometers northeast of the city of Antofagasta. It has low grades, of the order of 0.35% average. The mine started operating in 2014 and is expected to operate until 2039.

Minera Zaldívar –  Minera Zaldívar operates an open pit mine where copper oxide is extracted by heap leaching. It is located at an average height of 3,000 meters above sea level, 1,400 kilometers north of Santiago and 175 kilometers southeast of the city of Antofagasta. The mine has been operating since 1995 and is expected to operate until 2029. 

Strategic Areas of Interest 

  • Automation and robotization in specific stages of the production process – Antofagasta Minerals need to introduce automation and robotics in those repetitive and dangerous tasks, to avoid the risk of accidents to people and increase productivity.
  • Guarantee operational continuity in critical equipment – The decrease in the ore grade has forced the company to extract greater volumes of material to maintain production levels, creating a greater challenge in improving the availability of critical equipment.
  • Improve productivity by managing critical processes – It is desired to adopt technological tools that have been developed to support the management of tasks and knowledge, which allow streamlining procedures and improve productivity.
  • Treatment increase – Antofagasta Minerals understands that productivity increases can be achieved by generating greater use of equipment, through active management that improves operational conditions.
  • Efficiency in consumption of critical inputs – Costs are an important competitive lever in this industry. That is why reducing consumption of critical inputs incorporating innovative solutions is a vital challenge for companies.
  • Condition improvements that enable the operation – Antofagasta Minerals is renewing the way of interacting with third parties, with a long-term vision in the territories where it operates, through joint work with its inhabitants, local governments, and state agencies.
  • Improve the traceability of critical process variables in real time  – Advances in sensors and data processing create immense opportunities for new developments in information capture methods and improvements in the control of operational conditions that were previously unthinkable. The challenge today is to exploit this new information to generate positive impacts on the business.

Antofagasta Minerals  – 2021 Challenges

Antofagasta Minerals has released a document that outlines the current operational challenges and invites national and international companies to present their ideas. The main document outlines each challenge in more detail and we have provided a brief overview below. Click on the links or photo below for more details. 

“Technological solutions to optimize shifting tasks”

In hydrometallurgical plants that leach their minerals through the dynamic heap irrigation method, there are several activities of assembly and disassembly of equipment used in the loading and unloading of heaps (belts, heads, electrical rooms, etc.), as well as their transfer (Shifting). This activity requires a great effort of human resources, planning and support equipment, necessary to efficiently manage the deadlines defined for this activity. This represents a great challenge due to the large volume and size of the equipment to be moved, the limited space available and the condition of stability where these activities are carried out (leaching tailings). 

“Nitrate extraction in PLS”

The leaching process has the objective to extract the maximum copper content from the ore through irrigation with an acid solution. The resulting solution from this process (PLS) is enriched in Cu, but also with multiple impurities from the ore. The increase in the ionic charge of the PLS solution generates multiple physico-chemical effects that under extreme conditions affect the overall efficiency of the process. This translates into increased PLS viscosity, decrease in copper transfer, increased separation times, higher carryover and lower cathodic quality, among others. In the case of minerals with the presence of nitrates, there is a multiplying effect, since when they are agglomerated with sulfuric acid, it generates highly toxic nitrous gases and solutions enriched in NO3 ions, which when present in concentrations > 3 gpl in the PLS, generate the degradation of the organic phase with significant negative effects.

“Worker information integrator”

Currently, AMSA does not have a centralized system that incorporates all the information regarding workers. The available data is in different independent systems, which are not integrated with each other. The most important one is SIGA: a system of accreditation and access control (entry-exit) which, on its own, is vulnerable to factors that detract from the correct accounting of staffing (in real time) and times on site. Since 2020, there has been a greater focus on the control and management of third-party staffing through the areas of Third-Party Services and HR, in addition to the learning and gaps obtained by incorporating new ways of operating in the Covid context and teleworking. In order to comply with staffing control and others, data is entered manually, involving various areas in the site and a large number of resources daily.

“P80 Blasting Optimization”

The granulometry of the mineral is a critical variable that is monitored throughout the entire process in the concentrator plants from the mine to the milling. There are several technologies that allow this task to be carried out, but they are reactive systems that do not support the anticipation of the conditions of the plant to possible inconveniences.

“On route interference by inactive CAEX”

The mine roads are designed with high standards according to the safety and operation protocols, which allow the movement of CAEX equipment, trucks and auxiliary equipment safely. However, due to operational contingencies, routes are often interfered with by stopped equipment or the movement of heavy equipment in a slow manner, which reduces the productive times of the CAEX.

“Ball Mill Misalignment”

The MLP concentrator plant configuration has two ball mills that are fed by a SAG mill. The loads that each ball mill receives are not necessarily always homogeneous due to the different operational conditions that govern at the time of discharge. This heterogeneity causes the ball mills not to operate optimally, which causes misalignments that are difficult to detect and prevent.

“Thickening improvements”

The scarcity and demand for water motivate the optimization of this resource. In addition, the difficulty of monitoring the physical and chemical stability of tailings deposits increases the need to do something about the quantity of solids that make up these wastes. In these problems, a critical process is thickening, which generally has insufficient automation and control systems to respond to the new requirements of the operation.

“Improve the Running Coefficient of Gravel Equipment”

The gravel discharge system in the leaching plants is the integration of several systems of long belts and transfers that allow the waste material that remains after being leached to be deposited in a landfill. It is a mobile system, which is required to be moved manually, according to the speed at which the tank is filled. Due to the complex nature of the system, there are various possibilities of failure, which reduces the running coefficient of the equipment, generating possible delays in previous production activities, such as ore stacking.

“Improve Stack Running Coefficient”

The stacking system in the leaching plants is the integration of several systems that allow the formation of the ore heaps in the place where they will be irrigated. It is a mobile system, which moves continuously as it deposits the mineral that forms the piles. Due to the complexity of the system, there are varied possibilities of failure, which reduces the running coefficient of the equipment, generating delays in production.

“Design and implementation of an online monitoring system to know the geotechnical behavior of the advance front of the gravel deposit”

Due to the physical characteristics of the material coming from the leach heaps (gravel), the construction of the final deposit is at risk of ground faults in the operating front. These failures cause cracks and settlements in the slope platform, and these, eventually, can occur in front of or around the spreader equipment, generating a risk to the physical stability of the equipment, resulting in the halting of the deposit construction operation. Given the above, it is necessary to design and implement a monitoring system that allows the operation to be alerted early, allowing the spreading equipment to be displaced and safeguarded against an eventual ground failure. The system must operate online and have direct early warning systems for the shift manager and/or equipment operator. The platform that manages the database and its analytics must be adapted to the mine’s connectivity network and allow its interoperability with other processes related to mineral extraction.

“Belt Splicing”

Conveyor belts are used massively in mining operations, both in concentrator plants and in leaching plants. One of the most common failures is belt breakage or damage, which must be repaired on site. Currently, belt splices are carried out manually, using a lot of time in this activity (approximately 24 hours)

“Moving and lifting heavy equipment”

Currently there are various maintenance operations in the leaching plants that require moving heavy equipment from one place to another, tasks that are carried out manually, dragging equipment and facilities, with high demand for labor and auxiliary equipment making these activities require several days for its development. Furthermore, in some cases, such as the movements of the gravel deposit equipment, due to the instability of the terrain, these maneuvers become more complex, putting the equipment at risk and increasing the risk of exposure to the operators.

“Autonomous fuel supply system”

Centinela Mining will begin the implementation of Autonomous Trucks in one of its pits, which incorporates a series of new automation opportunities around this equipment. Refueling is one of the tasks that is required to be carried out continuously during operation, which is carried out manually. The objective of this challenge is to incorporate a system that allows autonomous trucks to be fueled in a robotic way, eliminating a risk factor that would be the interaction of people with autonomous teams and improving the performance of autonomous teams.

“Increase the useful life of Tires”

One of the inputs classified as critical in the mining operation are the tires of the CAEX. There is constant and rigorous monitoring of the condition of the tires, where their replacement is one of the most regular maintenance activities in the loading operation. Increasing the useful life of this input is necessary, not only because of the possible reduction in costs that this would mean, but also because of the need to improve the availability of the equipment by postponing its stoppage for maintenance.

“Pollution Control”

The monitoring and control of pollution inside mining sites is a challenge that has been tackled for a long time in the industry, achieving great advances. However, the growth of operations and new environmental requirements make this a subject under constant study. In Centinela Mining, the exploitation of new pits has begun, which generates more operational activity with the consequent increase in pollution inside the camp, so it is necessary to find solutions that allow controlling this pollution that prevents it from reaching the camps and the nearby population.

Cathodic Quality Measurement”

Cathodic quality is the most important variable when offering the final product on the market. The methods that exist to measure it are quite rigorous and respond to international regulations. The most common methods require a manual sampling in various areas of the cathode, and then refer to the laboratory for analysis to determine the quality of the cathode, which implies great costs and time in this work.

“Design and implementation of an online monitoring system to know the behavior of the Dust Control System”

The high amount of dust in the crushing plant, product of the same operation, makes it impossible to control and inspect the condition of the Dust Control Systems (SCP) and use them predictively. For this, it is necessary to design and implement a monitoring system that allows early warning of the conditions in the SCPs, where the reality of the online systems can be made available, generating the corresponding alarms early, giving notice to the shift manager and / or systems operator. The platform that manages the database and its analytics must be adapted to the plant’s connectivity network and allow its interoperability with other related processes.

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