Alfredo Bertrand
General Manager
View from the Top

Technology for Tomorrow’s Green Mining

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 11:51

Q: In what part of the industry’s value chain is Epiroc’s impact the strongest and where would you like to have a greater impact in the short to medium term?
A: We focus on the development and production stages. We provide equipment for drilling, transportation and exploration. We advocate for the introduction of top-notch technology to improve efficiency and productivity. Last year, we launched a set of products that are in line with today’s environmental concerns. They reduce CO2 emissions through batteries and electrical power. The plan is to first focus on monitoring and control. Then, from 2020 to 2025, we will start the electrification process. We have also implemented automation technology. One trial program at Peñasquito has been encouraging, with increased efficiency, cost reductions and better safety. This year, the project is being launched on a broad scale with the goal of having an autonomous mine, drilling-wise, by 2021.
Q: To electrify and automate a whole mining project implies a huge investment. Why should miners make this investment?
A: Mining companies are used to making steep investments but always with a clear timespan for recovery. We can illustrate that electrification and automation will help them recover much more than their initial investment in due time. What started as theory is now being put into practice, so we can offer actual figures backed up by real case studies. We present companies with a business plan so they can make informed decisions. With our accumulated experience, we can also offer more tailored solutions. With respect to batteries, in Mexico our goal for 2020 is to hit the market with top-quality battery-powered equipment.
Q: What segments of the mining industry in Mexico is Epiroc pursuing and who are your main clients in the country?
A: Our work is focused on the Big Four mining operators, but we are also targeting medium and small companies, which we think will attract government support in the near future. We also want to look at the outsourcing sector because a new business model is emerging around it. These outsourcing companies focus on noncore activities. For instance, exploration and development are noncore activities, as opposed to extraction and processing. Noncore activities are increasingly outsourced, and this is where we want to increase our range because we see these activities expanding and becoming more professional.
Q: The ICMM aims to minimize diesel use in mining by 2025. What is Mexico doing in this sense?
A: Mexico’s Big Four are working to reduce fossil fuel for producing electricity. They are moving toward green energy. The public sector has not offered measures such as tax incentives, but it has sent out messages making it clear that projects with low environmental impact will be prioritized. It is still vague, but the government is still partial to green projects. What I have heard is that the government is looking abroad, to Europe for example, to learn about other models where there is a clear program for emission reduction. It is also looking for strategic partners, like Sweden.
Q: Mexico has a number of smaller players that tend to be reticent to change. What resistance have you met in Mexico?
A: The mining industry in general, and especially in Latin America, is reticent to incorporating new technology. Mexico is also like this. Having said that, Mexico is comparatively more open to new equipment and models to improve efficiency. In fact, Mexico receives 30 or 40 visits yearly from other Latin American countries to see how new products are operating here. Mexico is a role model in Latin America. The next technology wave is related to monitoring, control and autonomy. And the social cost of this must also be taken into account. Resistance may come from people associating automation with layoffs. But automation can also be seen under a different light. What will be needed are different skills. The present generation is already digitally-inclined. If we do not introduce changes toward digital products in Mexico, the present generation will not be able to find a place alongside older workers. In the end, technological advances can have positive social outcomes.