The Role of Generators in Mining Chilean Copper

Approximately one-third of the Chilean government’s revenue comes from the country’s copper mines, according to National Geographic. The country holds nearly one-quarter of the world’s copper reserves. While other minerals like gold, silver, and aluminum are also mined in Chile, copper is the main attraction. In 2010, Chile produced 5390 metric tons of copper, a slight increase from 2009 production. Much of Chile’s copper is mined by the national copper mining company, Codelco; international firms account for some copper production. In 2011, Chile earned over $40 billion> from the mining industry as a whole and employed approximately 610,000 people directly and indirectly.

Because mines are often in remote sites, they often require access to natural gas pipelines or electric grids. Mining generators provide most of the mines’ operating power. In fact, diesel mining generators provide approximately 72 percent of power at mining sites, helping power drills, excavators, and shovels. Diesel is a favored fuel in the mining industry because it’s less volatile than natural gas.

Without generator power, miners would have to perform more of the difficult labor by hand. Not only would mining take longer, the supply and demand of these resources would become much more challenging. At Worldwide Power Products, we supply generators to mining companies in Chile and throughout South America. We offer a large inventory of both new and used generators, and are even able to help set up financing on the global market.

Relatively recent discoveries of copper deposits at Sur, near the Chilean capital of Santiago, could hold approximately 2.1 billion tons of copper ore, according to British mining conglomerate Anglo American. Through a 1978 deal, national firm Codelco gets the opportunity to exercise buy-in rights to Anglo American’s Chilean mining sites every three years. In October 2011, Codelco decided to buy in; however, executives low balled their offer, discounting the large Sur deposits. Not willing to let profit slip away, Anglo American turned around and made a better deal with Mitsubishi. The Sur conflict will be taken up by Chile’s legal system; the findings in this case could have implications for other international companies hoping to get in on the Chilean copper reserves.

The vastness of Chile’s resources guarantee copper mining for another century, and ensure the country a stable economy and good job prospects. With this wealth comes responsibility to operate mines safely. The second anniversary of the Chilean mine collapse occurred last week. Perhaps officials were lax in the past because copper plays such an important role for the country’s finances. Do you think Chile has learned the lessons from the mine collapse and is applying them correctly? Or do the legal woes spell a different headache for the South American powerhouse?