Interview with Mr. Hugo Salamanca24 July 2021
How did you overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic?
2020 was a year of extraordinary efforts to maintain operations, with a strong focus on pandemic control and management. Despite these challenges, we are very pleased with the results as we maintained our growth in the midst of the outbreak. Our construction company witnessed an increase in sales, despite being one of the most challenging as a 1,000+ person operation, but thanks to safety protocols and employee commitment, the result was excellent.
The technology business also saw significant progress. In 2020 we introduced robotics in mill relining, which is critical from both a production and human risk standpoint. We advanced technology at Minera Los Pelambres with AMSA. This is a pioneering application worldwide and we are pleased to have been able to demonstrate the performance of the robotic arms. This technology will go live this year with AMSA, which will be a global milestone. We are also working on the same technology with Minera Escondida.
What advances have you made with robotics?
In Peru, we have a very strong position, for example, in Antapaccay, as well as in the ports of Matarani and Callao. We have an interesting foundry application at Magotteaux in the U.S., which reduces the need for people in the assembly of molds in foundries.
On the other hand, last year, we contacted potential customers in Europe, particularly foundries in Finland and Sweden, for melting furnace applications. We are in the implementation phase at BHP’s Olympic Dam in Australia and are looking at applications for smelters in France. We have also presented our developments to Anglo American’s worldwide foundry specialists.
How are the company and the industry changing to incorporate more technology in mining?
In other industries, such as automotive, robotics is highly developed, but in mining it had a very low level of penetration until last year, when the Covid-19 crisis prompted a new approach focused on increasing productivity and reducing risks. The applications are multiple; for example, we are currently developing a robotic washing process for large mining trucks.
Internally, we are making significant changes in the company to respond to new business opportunities. We signed an agreement with the Universidad de Concepción to incorporate artificial intelligence in the application of robotic technology to the change of mill liners. With this we are going to structure a whole artificial intelligence program for the company. We are also developing a global monitoring center for all the robotic operations we are implementing. This is a process in which we already have relevant experience. Years ago, when we developed the plant maintenance services company, we installed a monitoring center for the mills and their motors in different operations in Chile, Argentina, Peru and Brazil.
Do you think Chile will become an important exporter of mining technology?
Chile, due to its strong and consolidated mining industry, is becoming a pole of technological development. We are a company with an innovative vocation, and innovation has been a strategic pillar from the beginning.
Robotic applications have been operating for several years in the US and Peru, and we see applications in Australia and Europe. In the group, we already have a unique world-scale robotics development center for mills.
Where do you see the greatest growth potential for the company in the coming years?
The copper industry will witness bullish projections due to electromobility and technological developments that depend on copper, which will continue to increase demand. Our vision is to become a leading global robotics company in the mining and heavy industry sectors. To achieve this, we have transformed ourselves into two entities: on the one hand, we are starting up a company specialized in the application of robotics in mills. On the other hand, the core robotics company, MIRS, has been reinforced with new executives for international business development, as we recently opened the MIRS office in Australia.