Codelco advancing toward electromobility despite complex scenario

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, November 10, 2022
Codelco advancing toward electromobility despite complex scenario

Despite a 10.4% year-on-year drop in copper production and a decline in pre-tax profits of over 50% in the first nine months of the year, Chile’s state-owned copper miner Codelco is advancing in its electromobility strategy.

The company's sustainability strategy targets a 100% clean energy matrix, electrifying underground mining operations, reducing CAEX truck emissions by 10%, and collaborating on green hydrogen initiatives.

The aim is to increase production capacity without risking its 2030 decarbonization goals. Codelco is the world’s largest copper producer, with output of some 1.6Mt/y.

Its available power capacity reaches 1,100MW and in 2021 it consumed 14,523MWh, Alfredo Olivares, director of sustainable energy management at Codelco, told an event hosted by the 4E Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program, at the end of October.

The enactment of Chile’s storage and electromobility law was applauded by Codelco’s chairman and former energy minister Máximo Pacheco.

"Having storage technologies and also a proper regulatory framework will favor the decarbonization process to which we are committed... Without a doubt, we are facing a necessary and fundamental public policy," Pacheco said on social networks on Tuesday.

The law will lower the cost of road tax on electric vehicles for eight years to compete with internal combustion cars that are almost 65% cheaper, the energy ministry said in a statement.

With a focus on reducing 70% of scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, Codelco has adopted several measures. In August, it launched a fleet of 155 electric buses to transport workers at its Chuquicamata, Andina and El Teniente divisions, representing 30% of the total number of vehicles for the service.

In September, the Radomiro Tomic division launched a new electric truck with power of 120kW that can be connected to 220V outlets, according to specialized media reports.

The state company's electromobility strategy also targets underground mining operations, where the greatest technological gaps exist, Gonzalo Ramírez, Codelco's innovation and electromobility specialist, told the event. The miner is currently testing equipment and hopes to include electric vehicles in the coming years.

One challenge will be converting CAEX haul trucks to green hydrogen. Ramírez indicated that there is still a lack of piloting in the matter and that "they will probably be available by the end of this decade, but the fact that there is commercial availability does not mean that we can buy 50 trucks, perhaps some units can be obtained for testing. That is a realistic scenario," he added.


Codelco has an agreement with Anglo-Australian giant Rio Tinto to address the challenges of underground mining, which includes design, construction and operation under safety, environmental, social and governance standards, including the electrification of equipment.

Since 2021, it has been part of the GHG Alliance Komatsu, together with Rio Tinto, BHP and Boliden, with the purpose of designing zero-emission CAEX trucks, considering other technologies such as trolleys, lithium batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, Ramírez said.

Codelco is also in the bidding process to find new electromobility suppliers and incorporate more units within the next 10 years in the Salvador, Radomiro Tomic and Ministro Hales divisions.

In addition, OpenCodelco-Conecta was launched on Wednesday, a channel to receive innovation proposals that will include economic benefits for the development of disruptive research related to the strategic focuses of innovation of the corporation.

"We are creating new spaces within our supply search processes where each one of the suppliers can offer us... which is fundamental precisely if we want to solve problems and challenges that are growing in an industry as complex as mining," said Mauricio Acuña, VP of supplies at Codelco, at the launch.

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