Mining: a factor pushing forward for Atacama’s development...
Open pit and underground copper, gold and silver
Candelaria's mining operations are located in the township of Tierra Amarilla, 18 miles south of Copiapo in Chile's Atacama region. Its main product is copper concentrate, while gold and silver are among their marginal yields. In addition to the open pit operation, it has the North Candelaria, Santos and Alcaparrosa underground mines.
Approximately 230,000 tons are extracted daily from the Candelaria mining district, of which about 75,000 tons are minerals that are sent to the Candelaria and Pedro Aguirre Cerda concentrator plants for processing. In 2015, Candelaria reached a production of 181,040 tons of copper and 102,500 ounces of gold and 1.8 million ounces of silver. About 70 miles away, in the city of Caldera, is the Punta Padrones Clean Mechanized Port which ships copper concentrate intended for international markets. The Seawater Desalination Plant is also among the Punta Padrones Port facilities.
Safety and life as a value
Candelaria has undergone an interesting transformation in terms of workplace safety. The first stage, lasting five years, saw the reactive culture transform into a proactive one concerned with security in three main areas:
• Visible leadership: interaction with team members and identifying opportunities for improvement.
• Training: prepare the workforce through internal courses and certifications.
• Control: set goals and key indicators to ensure proper performance.
During the second stage, which also lasted five years, safety became a value. Currently, its main focus is enshrining the concepts of personal responsibility, self-care and self-directed work teams, where each team member is a security leader. The ultimate goal being attaining a Zero Injury production process.
Cutting edge technology: operational and administrative support
Minera Candelaria's open pit enjoys MESH (WiFi) communications technology, useful in obtaining data generated by sensor shovels, loaders and haul trucks (CAEX). The MEM system monitors CAT truck fleet operations. Slope stability is monitored via four next-generation radars.
Meanwhile, the concentrator plant uses an online X-ray copper grade system; while the primary crushing and flotation circuits rely on a top-grade control system that optimizes the process.
Another resource for efficient monitoring is the IP Visualization Suite platform which provides concentrator plant as well as port real-time process variables at all times, even remotely. Presently, the Head Office system is being used to better monitor transport equipment fuel consumption.
Administratively, Candelaria's SAP system centralizes and controls finances, human resources, maintenance, costs, projects, supply and storage information, as well as inventory management, materials and services procurement.
Suppliers: partners in the path to development
Beyond service and product deployment, Candelaria's purveyors must align to the company’ principles and practices in areas such as work safety, environmental care and compliance with government regulations, among others.
Candelaria has established successful strategic alliances with vendors to ensure that the parts and consumables supply chain run smoothly. Its underground mining operations boast exceptional maintenance of its fleet and outstanding personnel services.
The company is currently implementing a Supplier Development Program (SDP) aimed at micro-entrepreneurs in Tierra Amarilla, Copiapó and Caldera, in conjunction with other agencies such as the Production Development Corporation (CORFO) and the Corporation for the Development of Atacama (CORPROA).
Accurate position profiles and community integration
The recruitment processes are guided by a complete description of every position, in which hard and soft skills are included. Candidates can consult job openings and apply via Candelaria's website, and must then undergo interviews.
Candelaria mining has established itself as an important employment generator in the area, not only because of the hired local workforce but the use of goods and services from local suppliers. Today, they provide more than 4,000 direct jobs. Despite the dip in the copper market, jobs have been maintained thanks to reduced costs, increased productivity and innovation commitments.
"We favor hiring our own operators from the neighboring Tierra Amarilla township," said Mr. Armstrong.
Environment and resources: optimal water management
Caring for the environment is a cornerstone for Minera Candelaria, whose operations are certified under ISO 14001 standards. All its facilities use monitoring, control and analysis programs.
The company's water management has resulted in the consumption of 85 percent reclaimed water. Thanks to the desalination plant, running since January 2013, water from the Copiapo River is no longer necessary for production processes. The 2015 water balances indicate that 85 percent of the water required for operations is reused or recycled water, 12 percent is desalinated water and 3 percent is treated water.
Sustainability in the environment
Minera Candelaria’s Social Investment Program emphasizes the development of sustainable projects in areas of health, education, productive activities, infrastructure, environment and culture, which have contributed to improve the quality of life of neighboring communities.
"We are building local, transparent and inclusive relationships with our communities," continued Mr. Armstrong.
The excellent relations Candelaria has established with the community have not gone unnoticed. Institutions and the communities of Tierra Amarilla and Copiapo are thankful for Candelaria's support following the flood happening on 25 March, 2015.
Investments and upcoming goals
Lundin Mining has important plans for Candelaria. The operation is expected to receive a US$ 400 million investment for the Candelaria 2030 business continuity project, which involves the construction of the Los Diques tailings basin, as well as strengthening the tailings driving system and installation of a borrow pit.
Underground mining operations will strive to consolidate new resources.
Candelaria's permanent goal, however, is to maintain high performance operations with low operating costs, generating positive cash flow margins within today's decrease in copper prices.