Metso Outotec: One-Stop for Mineral Processing SolutionsBy Alejandro Ehrenberg | Mon, 07/20/2020 - 11:13
Q: What synergies were realized with the merger of Metso and Outotec?
A: As a result of the merger, we are now able to offer a comprehensive package of solutions that addresses every step of the minerals process, from ore to metal. We have end to end applications for most minerals. Metso’s contribution to the new company is focused on the front end of the process, while Outotec’s is focused on the back end. Put differently, Metso is an expert on the dry process and Outotec on the wet process.
There is immense value in that for our customers. An important part of our activities is the R&D work that we carry out with them. For example, we study ore samples together. We have done it for tens of thousands of ore bodies. That is really valuable information to have when it is time to process the mined material. As Metso Outotec, we will be able to collaborate with our customers to deliver the best solutions for recovery methods, water usage optimization and other key areas.
We are working to consolidate our presence at the sites where both companies were already operating. Wherever Metso was present but Outotec was not, now Metso Outotec will be present, and vice versa. As a result, our clients will benefit from much deeper support.
Q: What is Mexico’s role in Metso Outotec’s strategy?
A: Mexico is a very important market for us. Many of the world’s top players have mines in Mexico in their portfolios. Metso and Outotec individually have a long history in Mexico and our goal as a new company is to continue growing together with our clients here. We are grateful that our customers in Mexico have supported us during the merger process and that they recognize the value we are generating for them.
Moreover, Metso Outotec is capable of making important investments in Mexico. For example, in the factory, where we primarily make rubber linings for grinding mills. We may soon expand production in that plant. We see a great deal of potential going forward.
Q: What are the main sustainability trends in the industry and how is Metso Outotec helping to make mining more sustainable?
A: Climate change is no longer a problem to be fixed. It is an existential threat to humanity that we have to tackle immediately. The transition to a low-carbon economy is of the utmost urgency. The mining industry has an important role in providing metals for this transition. Low-carbon technologies are mineral-intensive. They require a large amount of metals in many shapes and forms. Battery metals are obvious, but copper and silver, for example, are of the essence as well. It is up to the mining industry to provide those metals. To this need, one has to add the fact that grades are progressively lower. A greater amount of ore is needed to produce the same amount of metals. The challenge to provide the materials needed for electrification in a way that is sustainable and well-thought-out is enormous. Metso Outotec is eager to tackle this challenge. A significant amount of the US$100 million we invest annually in R&D is directed at that.
There are other important topics, too. Tailings is certainly one of them. We hold talks with Mexico’s Undersecretary of Mining, where we discuss tailings management in Mexico. We agree that we need to collaborate to update tailings handling in accordance with the latest industry developments. Among these developments is the fact that storing tailings behind a dam is not so viable option anymore. A history of accidents proves that that method is not sustainable. Dry tailings are a better method: instead of pumping slurry into a dam, tailings are dry-stacked. Previously, Metso and Outotec had responded independently to these needs. We now have a great deal of combined competency in this area: for example, innovative filters to produce dry tailings. The challenge this implies should not be underestimated. Copper’s average ore grade today is 1 percent. Almost all mined material goes to tailings, which need to be filtered so they can be dry-stacked. We are talking big volumes. Metso Outotec is the go-to partner for large-scale tailings management.
Q: How will the COVID-19 outbreak change the prevailing concept of sustainability?
A: Safety and health will become more central to sustainability. They have always been important in the mining industry, but the pandemic has put them in the foreground. These concerns dovetail with some operational issues that the pandemic has also highlighted. Mines have isolated themselves, limiting visitors to the site. Remote customer support is crucial, as a result. As one example, Metso Outotec provides the Metso Response app to support. The app is a digital knowledge-management system: a communication channel between our customers and us. It replaces emails, SMS and whatsapp messages, so that information is not scattered all over the place but in one easily-accessible database. The idea behind it is that communication on technical matters is often done person to person, while it is really an organization to organization matter. The Metso Response app documents all communications and makes them readily available. We thus fill the need for professional and systematic remote service.
Q: How will Metso Outotec’s R&D program benefit its customers along the value chain?
A: We invest US$100 million in R&D annually, more than anyone else in our sector. We have a decentralized R&D model. Our offer is very wide, with numerous product lines and products within each line. Therefore, we believe that the key R&D resources have to be deployed at the level of those particular product lines. We need to work with our customers on design to achieve the best solution for any particular ore body.
Our approach varies depending on whether we are developing something new or upgrading an existing solution. Some tasks are centralized, but to deploy technology in a manner that solves our customers’ actual needs, we need to be on the field with them. Close contact is of the essence. This allows us to design products based on actual needs, instead of creating artificial needs in the market.
Metso Outotec is a frontrunner in sustainable technologies, end-to-end solutions and services for the minerals processing, aggregates, metals refining and recycling industries globally.