Chile's Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, has announced a deal with tech giant Microsoft to fast-track the digitisation of its sprawling mining operations, helping it extend automation and improve analytics.
The joint project with Microsoft will beef up the company's capacity to make its production processes more efficient and promote "sustainability" within its operations, Codelco said in a statement.
Codelco, like many Chilean miners, has fought in recent years to adopt new technologies to boost efficiency and keep down costs at its aging deposits, many of which suffer from declining ore grades.
"We are promoting profound changes so that different areas operate in a completely remote and automated way, reducing risks, improving productivity, safety and reliability of our operation," said company executive Alvaro Garcia.
Mining companies worldwide are pushing forward with plans to operate mines remotely, reducing the risk of accidents and boosting efficiency.
Codelco’s move towards automation however has led to confrontations with unions, who see it as a threat to their livelihoods. The company said the project with Microsoft will include a training component for the its workers.
The state-run miner has recently ramped up its use of technology to ensure its copper is 100% traceable, a vital step in reducing its carbon footprint and boosting sustainability within its operations.
Codelco’s CEO Octavio Araneda said that tracing copper through its mines would help the company more precisely measure progress on its social and environmental goals while providing proof to increasingly demanding customers of those efforts.
“We can now say that 100% of our products are traced…which will allow us to have a very strong transparency regarding our resource use footprint,” Araneda said.
The announcement comes amid a broader push by the company to reduce water consumption, recycle industrial waste and scale back carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
Codelco said in a webinar that the tool it has developed to assure traceability will help assure those sustainability targets are met.
Soaring demand for electric vehicles, a key component in the global fight against climate change, has increased attention on the carbon footprint and sustainability of inputs such as copper, cobalt and lithium.
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