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Mining Maintenance Interview – Pablo Hernández, Maintenance Engineer.

Maintenance has moved from reactive to predictive with the objective to anticipate failures before they happen. We interviewed Pablo Hernández, Maintenance Engineer; with more than 27 years of experience in the mining sector across the major mining companies in Chile. Today, he provides us insight into the maintenance operation and how it has changed over recent years.

Ax Legal: Based on your experience, could you tell us how the maintenance aspects of operations work today?

Pablo: Today’s maintenance is mainly based on asset management platforms where predictive models empower the maintenance operations to have better oversight of assets and human resources. Maintenance planning by means of these predictive models allow the operations to achieve the optimum performance of the equipment components. In addition, applying predictive maintenance techniques helps to identify possible failures in highly critical equipment within an operation. If the two are done successfully, the maintenance function is managed properly, resulting in equipment availability. All of this is done to obtain the best performance from the equipment and to control costs so that they stay within budget.

Ax Legal: How has maintenance changed in the mining industry in the last 5 years?

Pablo: From personal experience, I believe that maintenance has had a very dizzying development in recent years. The application of beneficial technologies for mining is mainly associated with the fact that mining deposits are increasingly deeper or at a higher geographical height. Consequently, it is necessary to find ways to remove the worker from these extreme conditions. For this reason, there is new R&D technologies that provide solutions to these problems but maintenance in remote control systems and autonomous equipment require more specialized maintenance. This has challenged the maintenance function which has had to adapt to these new changes.

Ax Legal: Is there differences in how mining maintenance operations are managed in Latin America and other countries like Australia?

Pablo: I will refer to my experience in Chile. We are mining country that is very developed. We have mining developments that are our own. Various innovative and highly creative technologies have been developed which have improved mining operations both nationally and internationally. At the same time, we have excellent engineers and highly specialized technical professionals. As a country, we have internalized and perfected technologies from abroad to work within our own circumstances and investing in improvements when necessary. In general, I believe that each country is different which depends on the culture and each company needs to adapt to those specific factors. The interesting thing is to be able to create synergies between what is happening internationally in terms of technology adoption. The goal is always to eliminate accidents to people and / or equipment and to take care with the environment by seeking extractive or process methods that reduce environmental impacts.

Ax Legal: What kinds of technological changes are happening in the maintenance field? Are they being adopted in Latin America at the same rate as other countries?

Pablo: The technological change that is happening in maintenance is mainly related to the application of digital technologies to capture data from the equipment which is monitored in real time. The purpose is to identify trends and identify potential failures before they happen. By doing this, it is easier to plan replacements of components and avoid catastrophic failures.

I believe that in our country, technology changes are applied at the same time as other countries, but in the case of Latin America there is a technology gap because in some cases these countries lack free trade agreements with developed countries that are the generators of these new technologies.

Ax Legal: There are many companies that offer predictive maintenance technology to mining companies. What are the factors that make one company offer better service than another?

Pablo: The knowledge of the operations and the experience of the technicians. It should be noted that many times the analysis of the equipment conditions in the field differs totally from that of the laboratory. Consequently, having knowledge of the conditions in the field and knowing the operation is very relevant. When delivering an analysis, it is the quality of the information being provided to the customer which often is more important than the cost.

Ax Legal: In your opinion, what are the typical problems that foreign companies have when introducing their technology in the Chilean maintenance industry?

Pablo: One of the root problems is related to the language barrier. We have a significant language gap in the field in terms of staff being bilingual. Foreign companies need to be able to bridge that gap to ensure there is good after sales support.

Ax Legal is a legal and business advisory firm that works with foreign companies in Latin America. Our team of legal and commercial advisors have a distinguished track record of helping foreign technology and services companies to grow and operate in Latin America. Over the years, we have worked with starts up, mid-size businesses, and publicly listed companies. The one common factor that connects are clients is that they are leaders in their field, providing innovative technologies and services to the industrial sectors.

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