Codelco goes for German mining technology

In mid-June, 14 representatives of German companies travelled to Chile in order to meet with Codelco. This was the third such meeting, the previous ones being in 2005 and 2006. The aim of a two-day workshop, which was organised by the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), was to find new and further possibilities of working together. The German delegation aimed at showing their Chilean partners the strengths of the German mining technology especially when it comes to difficult conditions underground.

Codelco is facing the challenge of a change from surface mining to underground mining at Chuquicamata, for geological and economic reasons. In order to achieve this, several deep shafts have to be sunk and several thousands of metres of roadways will have to be driven to enable the installation of the relevant equipment needed. In addition, topics like productivity and cost reduction with the help of innovative technology were on the agenda.

“We continued our lively discussions with the Codelco experts still after the official presentations were over. You certainly cannot count on this to happen after a very long day at the workshop.” Franz-Josef Paus, acting managing director of Hermann Paus Maschinenfabrik and head of the delegation, summarized his impressions in Santiago and continued: “We were able to reach a further milestone for a long-term co-operation with Codelco while we were here.” Earlier co-operations have already led to a number of positive results. Codelco together with DBT have developed new techniques for block caving, for instance.

The contact platform organised by CORFO, the Chilean production development corporation, as well as their visit to the mining industry’s fair EXPONOR in Antofagasta made the members of the delegation look foward to the future with optimism. Latin America, according to Peter Zuber, head of export at Bochumer Eisenhütte Heintzmann, is one of the most important mining areas for German mining technology. For geological reasons, underground mining will be seeing a dramatic increase while surface mining use is likely to reduce, he believes. As German companies take a leading position when it comes to underground mining technology, they have good potential in this particular market. This is especially true for Chile. The German manufacturers aim at expanding as well as consolidating their presence here, as “market shares which we do not gain or even lose now we will not get until 2015”, this is what Franz-Josef Paus strongly believes. Although the industry’s sales to South America saw enormous growth in 2005 and 2006, the members of the delegation believe that the German manufacturers are currently positioned well under value compared to the USA.

The Latin America steering team consists of representatives of companies, the VDMA and ministries and gets together twice to three times a year to discuss and plan joint Latin America activities. The steering team works very closely together with the German-Chilean chamber of commerce in Santiago. Together they already have prepared the next step forward on the way to a long-term German-Chilean co-operation. As of October 1 2007, young male and female engineers will start doing six weeks of practical training in member companies of the German Engineering Federation and at German universities of mining.