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Mining with principles at Codelco's El Teniente copper mine in Chile

17 August 2021

Almost all underground mining equipment is diesel-powered. DPM is a carcinogen, with exposure to elevated levels being linked to negative health effects. We are promoting operational and technical innovations to minimise the impacts of DPM by 2025.

In the world’s largest copper underground mine, El Teniente, Codelco is trialling an electric pick-up truck as part of its ambition to have all its underground operations running with electric equipment by 2030. The vehicle, which is operating inside and outside the mine, could contribute to reducing operating costs compared to diesel vehicles by 70-80 per cent and maintenance by 30 per cent while cutting DPM emissions by 100 per cent.

Currently, most electric solutions available on the market for passenger transportation have not been designed for mining conditions, so pilots and trials are needed to collect operational data that can allow a broader future implementation. Autonomy, charging times, user experience and driving safety are some of the aspects that will be monitored during this twelve-month trial. The data collated will help to identify the conditions that can allow this type of technology to be scaled up in other mine sites.

In 2018, Codelco began the development of electric vehicles pilots with a pioneering plan for testing them at three mine sites in the Atacama Desert. This program allowed, for the first time, to evaluate their performance in mining conditions, validating technological, business and sustainability variables. The positive results obtained led the company to advance in two lines: passenger transportation and heavy equipment in operating areas.