Cesco organizes a workshop to aim a policy on foundries

In order to make a technical analysis and political relevance of increasing the production capacity of refined copper in Chile, which is equivalent to increasing the processing capacity of concentrates,  a workshop was held in a collaborative work between the Center for Copper and Mining Studies (Cesco), the University of Concepción, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Minnovex and Ecometales.

In the instance, representatives of the smelter sector participated, as well as engineering companies and academics, who delivered their visions regarding the development of the smelter industry in Chile.

“The need to have a political framework in terms of foundries has motivated us to meet, to prepare a technical document, and to be a contribution in the discussion of this particular issue,” said Leopoldo Reyes, President of the Board of Directors of Cesco.

During the workshop, the Director of Economy and Environment of the International Copper Study Group (ICSG), Carlos Risopatrón, made a presentation on the general state of the processing of concentrates in the world. “One of the problems of the treatment of concentrates worldwide is the increase in arsenic content. China, the world’s largest smelter, has a limit of 0.5% of arsenic in concentrates, which is not complied in several countries, ” said Risopatron.

Working committee

After the announcement of a possible closure of the Ventanas smelter within the framework of COP25 held in Madrid in December, Cesco  decided to work on a committee to assess the importance of processing concentrates at the local level. In this group work: Roberto Parra of the University of Concepción; Juan Carlos Salas and José Joaquín Jara of the Catholic University – Jara is also a director at Cesco-; the Executive Vice President (s) of Cochilco, Jorge Cantallopts; and Iván Valenzuela, director at Cesco and General Manager of Ecometales.

In that context and as a representative of this committee, Iván Valenzuela presented during the workshop the main conclusions that this working group has had in recent weeks on the subject. On the existing foundries, the director of Cesco stressed that “it is necessary to improve the management. The first thing is to separate their results from the mining operation. And the second thing is to manage them as long-term strategic assets, with technological developments and more demanding management, and not to see them as second-order assets.”

In the second place and with respect to increasing the processing capacity of concentrates in the country, Valenzuela said that “the State will play a key role, on  one hand, pushing the companies producing concentrates to commit to the delivery of concentrates so that the country produce more refined copper and, on the other hand, promoting among investors the financing of new smelters, with expectations of long-term returns lower than those of mining, as a non-mining business,” explained Valenzuela.

The expert added that, in this way, the State is expected to combine these two extremes of the mining business, and for its part, can cooperate in defining the most appropriate locations, and providing institutional support for the necessary coordination of the various State agencies.

“An efficient smelter and refinery production industry is very necessary in Chile, very possible and requires the State as a catalyst,” Valenzuela concluded.

After this presentation, the attendees were divided into two groups to comment on possible paths to follow in order to implement a concentrate processing policy.

These opinions were collected by the members of the Cesco committee, to use them as inputs in the proposal that the institution is working on and that is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, to be subsequently socialized among the different industry leaders, and decision-makers in Chile.