Mining companies are the largest energy consumers in Chile, both for extractive and productive processes. Codelco, the National Copper Corporation of Chile, will implement a thermal solar plant for copper separation process. The companies awarded, the Chilean Llaima, SpA, and the Danish Sunmark, will have one-year term for the completion of the thermal solar plant construction that will be used as a heat source for the electro-winning process of Gaby mine. The scope of supply includes the construction of a thermal solar plant, which will use 99%
recyclable flat-plate collectors with a collector area of 39,000 square meters and a tank for hot water storage with a capacity of 3,000 cubic meters.
The plant will be located in the vicinity of Gaby electro-winning premises, in an area of 13.2 hectares. The supply agreement covers a 10-year period, is worth $ 60 million and could be extended in the future given the long service life of the equipment.
The process of copper electro- winning, from the energy standpoint, is intensive in the use of diesel fuel for heating the electrolyte at a temperature of 50 ° C, approximately. To achieve this, they use diesel heaters that have an annual consumption of 8,000 cubic meters for an annual production of 120,000 tonnes of copper. The plant will also provide heat for minor services such as cathodes washing and reagent heating.
The use of solar energy for heating solutions, will cover about 80% of the heat requirements of Minera Gaby electro- winning plant current operations, avoiding the emission of 15,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Thus,thisplantwouldbecometheworld’slargestofitskind,delivering some 50 GWh / year to the process. It is estimated that the contract will save Minera Gaby approximately $ 7 million thanks to the lower energy cost. In addition, other benefits include the fact that it will prevent a flow of 250 trucks of fuel annually and offer more reliable operations due to the availability of heat for more than two days stored in situ.
The National Copper Corporation of Chile is a Chilean state-owned company, whose core business is the exploration, development and exploitation of mineral resources of copper and by- products, and its processing to turn it into refined copper, as well as its eventual trading. In 2011, Codelco produced 1.79 million metric tons of refined copper. This figure represents 10% of world production. Its main commercial product is Grade A copper cathode.
The Corporation is also involved in the ownership of major mining companies such as Minera Gaby SpA, where it owns 100% of the property, and El Abra, where it owns 49%, in addition to other mining associations focusing on geological exploitation, both in Chile and abroad.