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Supporting the growth of a more sustainable mining industry

Published 8.8.2022

To respond to the needs of the mining market in Chile, Techint Engineering & Construction is building water pumping systems and desalination plants to make seawater suitable for industrial use. This solution also helps to preserve current fresh water sources and protect ecosystems.

The problems of water scarcity in the mining industry

In Chile, obtaining access to water, a fundamental input for mining activity has recently become a critical process. The new regulations drawn up to offset the water crisis affecting the country now require water used for new large-scale projects to be extracted from the sea, desalinated, and transported all the way from the coast to the Andes.

In response, the region's mining companies are adopting more sustainable processes, building desalination plants and designing new water systems. Desalination plants remove salt and other impurities, turning seawater into freshwater suitable for human consumption and industrial use. They use proven and effective technology and work by adapting to changing factors in the environment.

This is how mining has found a sustainable solution to the obstacles affecting its industrial operations, and in the process, will help to protect the environment by preserving the increasingly scarce sources of fresh water and safeguarding ecosystems.

According to a report by the Chilean Copper Commission (Cochilco), which analyzes water use at 56 copper mining operations, by 2032, some 68% of the water consumed by the local mining industry will be sourced from the sea, and the remaining 32% will be continental water. One of the objectives of the Chilean government’s strategy for the mining sector is to reduce its use of continental water use to 10% by 2025 and to 5% by 2040.

Consequently, Techint E&C has been building a number of water pumping systems for different mining companies throughout the region. According to Jorge Donoso, the company’s General Manager in Chile, "there are over 4,500 people working on four projects and we are gearing up in a big way for future challenges."

Techint E&C has been present in Chile for over 70 years, providing engineering, procurement and construction services, as well as project management and maintenance services, to companies in a broad range of market segments including mining, energy, oil and gas, infrastructure and industrial plants.

A key area where the company is working in Chile is mining, one of the country’s foremost economic activities. Techint E&C has been designing and building mineral processing plants, desalinated seawater and saltwater pumping systems (aqueducts and pumping stations), slurry and concentrate pipelines. It also offers maintenance services for processing plants.

The Techint E&C stamp of quality

In Chile, the company works with its own group of engineers as well as experienced construction teams, which work together to find solutions for challenging projects. As a global concern with over 75 years of experience, Techint E&C has five engineering centers employing more than a thousand professionals around the world and a global supply chain enabling it to successfully complete over 3,300 projects. 

The versatility and breadth characterizing the company means that it can simultaneously execute complex projects in different countries. “Throughout our history, we’ve shown that we are perfectly capable, at both global and regional levels, of successfully completing our projects to meet the highest standards of safety, quality and environmental care,” explains Donoso. 

Own Logistics Center providing strategic support

Located in the north of the country, near the borders with Bolivia, Peru and northern Argentina, the Antofagasta Region is one of the top mining areas in the world. In an effort to provide support to the large-scale projects of this burgeoning industry in the area, Techint E&C decided to bolster its presence by setting up a modern Logistics Center, located on a 4.5-hectare site. The new hub means that the teams can set up equipment, receive critical items from suppliers, and stockpile leftover materials from works that have finished so that they can be retrofitted for new destinations.

The new Logistics Center joins the company’s well-established Machine Park in the La Negra industrial center in Antofagasta.

Keeping pace with the challenges thanks to training and innovation

In the conviction that the impending increase in mining activity in Chile will affect personnel demand, the company has been holding training programs in the area for some time. Its facilities double as training centers and schools for welders, where qualified experts can be trained in the art of automatic welding.

In parallel with its objective of safeguarding employee health and safety, the company has incorporated two state-of-the-art driving simulators that replicate the hazards and difficulties of the mountain routes leading up to the works.

Techint E&C is also pursuing an innovative culture among its employees to encourage them to come up with new practices and tools to improve processes and be more efficient and competitive. Recently, it has incorporated mobile devices for use in material management and drones to carry out topographical and facility surveys. And it’s also using virtual reality to enhance engineering design, among other applications.

Female Labor Inclusion Program

In line with UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 5, Techint Engineering and Construction launched a Program to include the Female Workforce in Chile, aimed at increasing the number of women in the company, through a strong recruitment drive for various project-related positions.

As a result, 127 women joined the project to work as civil works and topography assistants, van and truck drivers, operators and electricians, among other positions. They all took part in a training process that lasted over 4,100 hours.

The company plans to replicate the program in other countries to encourage more women to join the different projects.

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