Codelco’s Salvador Division bus fleet goes electric plus first primary crusher starts up at Rajo Inca

In the presence of the Undersecretary of Mining, Suina Chahuán, and Codelco Executive President, Rubén Alvarado, Codelco recently launched its ‘Electromobility for El Salvador’ program, through which its Salvador Division in the Atacama Region converted 100% of its bus fleet to electric. This project was implemented by Enel X and Tandem Industrial and executed under a new investment vehicle for electromobility led by BTG Pactual.

The program also included the inauguration of smart bus stops, located in various parts of the city, which were built – both their structure and their seats – with recycled materials and are supplied with solar energy. They are equipped with security cameras and have two information screens that broadcast news from the camp and live information on the bus route.

Likewise, users of these buses can access a mobile application to find out the schedule of the routes and see online the place where their transport is located. This project has also considered the integration of people in its design, since the buses will transport both Codelco workers and workers from contractor companies.

The El Salvador program is part of Codelco’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal that has led the company to form the largest mining fleet of electric buses in national mining. The 30 buses in this fleet join the 155 that operate distributed in El Teniente, Chuquicamata and Andina. To date the largest supplier of electric buses to Codelco has been Chilean company Reborn Electric. 

Alvarado, said that “milestones like this manage to reconcile fundamental values: we lower emissions, we develop smart bus stops with a circular economy, we integrate Codelco and contractor personnel; all based on collaboration with the companies we work with.”

These new buses for Salvador have a 350 km range and were manufactured by the Chinese company Yutong and have wide spaces between seats, belts with alarms, three TV screens and several internal cameras, which allow better visualisation for the drivers. The project has been implemented under the Charging as a Service (CaaS) model, which offers a comprehensive solution for infrastructure, maintenance, and energy management of the charging stations through the construction of electro-terminals.

To charge the bus fleet, Enel X has set up two charging terminals in the mining city (North Terminal and South Terminal), each equipped with 8 charging stations totalling 150 kW of power to allow for an agile, dynamic, and flexible operation. Tandem is the company responsible for operating the new electric buses.

Chahuán pointed out that “this allows us to advance in a more sustainable mining future with higher quality for the transfer of workers. In addition, it is an important step towards meeting Codelco’s carbon neutrality goals, for which we congratulate the company.”

Christian Toutin, General Manager of Codelco Salvador, highlighted that “this project seeks to highlight the new mining that we want to develop, taking care of the environment and transforming our entire fleet to electric buses, with smart bus stops, mobile applications, but most importantly, integrating our own workers and those of collaborating companies, since we all seek the goal of more humane and efficient mining.”

The launch ceremony of the ‘Electromobility for El Salvador’ program was attended by various regional authorities, along with representatives of workers, neighbourhood associations and representatives of companies that worked on this project, such as Yutong, Tandem, Enel X and PSINet.

The main focus of the Salvador Division today is the new Rajo Inca project, for which Codelco in May began testing some of the equipment that will process the copper ore extracted from the new pit. Rajo Inca will enable larger scale open pit mining and processing at Salvador Division’s facilities, which are being optimised to increase capacity and prolong the useful mine life by 47 years. It is extracting the remaining ore resources of the Indio Muerto deposit which have previously been mined using underground methods. Salvador Division has also carried out surface mining from the Campamento Antiguo and Quebrada M open pit mines.

Primary crushers at Rajo Inca project, Salvador Division

Capacity of the expanded concentrator plant will gradually increase to 37,000 t/d.  Specifically, the first of two new primary crushers, which will crush the mined rock in the dry processing stage, began operation. This first step is part of the start-up of the project, and marks the beginning of the progressive implementation of a series of new equipment and facilities, which will enable the entry into operation of the project at the end of H2 2024. After the start of the tests in the first crusher, a second is being added, and followed by the grinding and flotation processes in the concentrator plant.

“This implementation progressively activates more than 700 pieces of equipment and over 16 thousand signals in the control system, which implies a great deal of coordination and logistics work. Compliance with this phase is part of the process of moving Rajo Inca forward and commits us even more to our country and the Atacama Region,” said Toutin.