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“We hope to contribute to the technological transformation that mining requires”

LEANDRO VOISIN: “We hope to contribute to the technological transformation that mining requires”

For the first time in an interview with Alta Ley, the executive director of the National Center for Piloting Technologies for Mining (CNP) refers to the challenges of this great project, born under the wings of the Corporation, and reports on the first advances in its 3 years of existence.

Recent studies by Cochilco indicate that one of the great barriers to innovation in the mining industry is the lack of test sites and the high costs of failure that fall on technology providers. Precisely to cope with this “pain” and fill that gap in the industry, the National Mining Technology Pilot Center (CNP) was born. This is a project co-funded by the Program on Strengthening and Creating Capabilities that Enable Technological Innovation for Corfo and awarded, in December 2017, by four prestigious Chilean universities: University of Chile, the Technical University Federico Santa María, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and the University of Antofagasta. To these is added Minnovex, the trade association of suppliers companies around mining.

The mission of the CNP is to provide the mining industry and, in particular, to the supplier companies, services of high technical expertise in pilotage and technology validation. That means access to test spaces that are close to or equal to the industrial scale, articulated with related co-executors and expert advice during technological scaling, which applies standards recognized by mining.

We talked with Leandro Voisin, executive director of the CNP to learn more about the objectives behind this challenging project and its next steps.

What is the main objective of the CNP Pilot Center?
Our aim is to detect, promote and contribute to the development of new technologies for mining, evaluating them under conditions close to the real scale with methodologies, capabilities and technical skills that will allow to validate innovative products, of high value and market potential. In this way we will provide a certification that is recognized by the mining ecosystem and accelerates the process of adopting new technologies in the market.

With this we hope to contribute to the technological transformation that mining requires and deliver in less time solutions that will positively impact on maintaining the competitiveness of the most relevant industry in the country.

What work area are you focused on and what results do you hope to achieve?
The installed capacities and competencies of the center allow us to address challenges in virtually all lines of the mining business, such as geological exploration, mining operations with underground and open pit methods, processing, concentration of minerals and tailings, hydro- electrometallurgy, and foundry and refinery processes. According to the results of a potential demand study, carried out in 2018, and an internal information update completed in May this year, aligned with contractual advances with our co-executors, the CNP will address initiatives that are linked in a first stage mainly to Smart Mining (sensorization, automation and robotization of components and processes) in unit operations of underground mining, processing and concentration of minerals. We hope to have technology products validated by the center and with the recognition of the mining ecosystem of our piloting practices during the year 2020, as well as consolidating a portfolio of projects that will ensure sustainability and profitability.

What have been the advances so far?
To date, the CNP has a board of directors, structured governance and legal status, and we have two operating nodes: the North Node, located in Antofagasta, which has test sites in Calama and Copiapó; and the South Central Node, located in Santiago, which has test spaces in Til-Til and Requínoa. We also have co-execution agreements with the companies Ecometales, ENAMI (Matta plant and HVL foundry), Minera San Pedro, Minera Valle Central, CodelcoTech, CI-JRI and JKTech. We also have cooperation agreements with international and national reference centers, such as Norcat in Canada, Montan Universität in Austria and the Technical University of Munich in Germany, as well as with IDIEM and DICTUC in Chile. We currently have a portfolio of more than 40 initiatives with TRL equal to or greater than 6 and planning for the qualification of two test sites belonging to our co-executors.

A national industrial validation contest was launched. What is this project and what would be its benefits?
On September 23, we launched the national technological validation contest “Mining Impact: Build the Future”, aimed at startups, companies and entrepreneurs who are developing innovative solutions for mining and require piloting them industrially. The contest has the collaboration of Alta Ley Corporation and the Expande Program.

The winning initiative will obtain coverage of up to 50 million pesos for the design, preparation and execution of industrial piloting, with access to test sites. Applications are available until October 23, on the website www.pilotaje.cl/impacta

What do you think this Pilot Center can contribute to the mining industry?
The CNP seeks to generate an acceleration of technological development for mining and activate a virtuous network of collaboration in the ecosystem, which translates into a significant number of new products and services for the industry, supported by the center and at the same time establishing good practices in matters of technological validation, recognized by the mining ecosystem.

In the long term, the benefits turn out to be synergistic with those defined in the country’s commitment and development programs such as Alta Ley, promote and articulate innovation for mining, have specialized human capital in piloting and technological validation, increase world class providers for mining, as well as productivity and exports of knowledge-intensive services and technologies. The CNP aims to be recognized as a responsible, committed and successful reference that contributes to the virtuous interaction of suppliers with large-scale mining.

What next action or initiatives do you estimate will be taken?
We intend to open the industrial validation contest every year, so that the ecosystem incorporates it and keeps in mind in its planning. If there is someone who fails to participate in this instance, we intend to open a new call at the end of the year and you can be sure that next year we will give full follow-up to the winners and we will strengthen the contest. We also have other initiatives in parallel that are being executed, such as a series of Workshops open to the public and not only in Santiago. In these spaces we intend to share information, educate and create collaborative spaces. In addition, the doors of our offices in Santiago and Antofagasta are permanently open to support technology entrepreneurs who wish to explore the execution of a validation test.