Chile miner Codelco and BHP sign sustainable mining agreement

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile state-owned miner Codelco and multinational miner BHP Group signed a knowledge-sharing agreement on sustainable mining, Codelco said in a statement on Tuesday.

The “collaboration accord” sets up a commission to share expertise between the two companies over the next five years in “mutual interest areas” like water use, tailings supervision, and application of advanced technologies, the statement said.

“In order to imagine these new ways of doing mining, innovation is one of the main axes of our management, a focus that we can only develop in alliance with players who are equally active in this search, as is the case with BHP,” Codelco’s CEO Andre Sougarret said in the statement.

The statement says the accord will address technologies that enable the exploitation of low-grade minerals, deep deposits and deposits with complex metallurgical conditions, as well as the design of operations that use less or no water.

Rag Udd, BHP’s Americas president, said the alliance with Codelco reflects the company’s efforts to fight climate change.

The global mining industry has a track record of environmental abuses, but it is also a key player in the transition to clean energy.

Chile is the world’s top copper producer and holds the largest lithium reserves on the planet.

The World Bank has estimated that the production of minerals, such graphite, lithium and cobalt, may increase by 500% by 2050 to meet demand for clean energy technologies.

Chile’s government last month announced it would work to transfer control over the country’s lithium operations to a state-owned company, with future lithium contracts issued only as public-private partnerships.

President Gabriel Boric tasked copper giant Codelco with leading negotiations with lithium producers currently operating in the country.

Agreements like Tuesday’s accord between Codelco and BHP “show how joint work between the public-private sector is essential to making mining an increasingly sustainable industry,” Udd said.

(Reporting by Natalia Ramos; Writing by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Sarah Morland, Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio)