Ten companies and consortia have been selected to advance to the laboratory test stage of the ‘BHP Tailings Challenge’, which is seeking solutions and new business models to reuse copper tailings.
The company’s call was launched on June 16, 2020, with a total of 154 applications from 19 countries received.
The challenge, conducted with the support of Fundación Chile through the open innovation program in mining, Expande, will make $10 million in grants available to developers.
The companies and consortia were announced last week in a virtual demo day, in which they presented their proposals to convert tailings into technologies or commercial products with a focus on: construction materials, fertilisers and artificial soils; generation of green hydrogen; development of “mineral paper”; low emission fibreglass and cement production; and the use of solar energy to concentrate minerals, among others.
The selected teams include:
- Americas Tailings Inc (USA);
- Auxilium Technology Group LLC (USA);
- Brimstone Energy Inc (USA);
- Circular Mine Consortium (Australia);
- Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology (Germany);
- Minera Valle Central SA (Chile);
- Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Chile);
- Sustainable Minerals Institute International Centre of Excellence (Australia);
- The University of New South Wales (Australia); and
- Universidad de Valparaíso (Chile).
Selected companies and/or consortia will have a period of six months to validate their solutions at the laboratory level after receiving the tailings samples along with a $50,000 grant. Their results will be shown in a demo day in August 2021, demonstrating the technical and economic feasibility of their proposals, Expande said.
A maximum of three of the 10 teams will go through to a pilot test in a controlled environment. At this stage, it is expected that they will be able to prove their processes operate in an “integrated manner, are feasible at an industrial level, and their value proposition is commercially viable”.
Finally, there will be a demo day in March 2023, in which the winner(s) that have reached a feasible tailings reuse solution from a technical and investment point of view will be announced.
Carlos Ávila, Asset President Joint Ventures of BHP, said: “The selection process for this stage focused on identifying initiatives with a clear value proposition, a strong scientific and technological base and the potential to develop an accelerated scaling strategy. We hope that after 24 months it will be possible to move from idea to implementation of a sustainable business model for repurposing fresh tailings.”
Marcos Kulka, CEO of Fundación Chile, said the BHP Tailings Challenge methodology had allowed the company to capture the best solutions worldwide to solve a disruptive problem and leverage private capital for its development, mitigating innovation risks.
Kulka added: “We see that this can be replicated in transformational challenges in other industries. In this case, we had 154 applications from 19 countries, which is a clear demonstration that the innovation ecosystem responds to these challenges. It is important to note that a third of the applications and those selected for the proof of concept are Chilean teams which shows that there is well positioned local capability, able to compete on a global scale.”
Andrés Mitnik, Expande’s Business Director, said the 10 selected teams can demonstrate their ability to develop a new industry that allows significant progress in the sustainability of mining.
“This is a demonstration of how our methodology allows us to tackle disruptive challenges,” Mitnik said.