Chilean mining sector considers long-term benefits of space-based technology

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The Satellite Applications Catapult is leading an international team of British and Chilean organisations which is investigating how satellite technology can improve mining operations in Chile’s Coquimbo region, with a particular focus on the small and medium-sized companies which often represent the major part of local economies.

The project comes at the start of a programme of work being commissioned by the Chilean Ministry of Mines aimed at boosting the Chilean national mineral and metal output of small and medium size companies by $1.8Bn per year by 2023, and is a component of the Government’s “Roadmap 2035 Strategy”. This initiative aims to bring not only significant economic improvements to Chile’s mining sector over the next decade, but also deliver improvements in environmental management of extractive industries which will have broader applicability worldwide.

Alongside the Catapult, the five-strong “Project Hephaestus” consortium includes the British Geological Survey, and from Chile the Empresa Nacional de Miner¡a (ENAMI), the Servicio Nacional de Geolog¡a y Miner¡a (SERNAGEOMIN) and the Comisi¢n Chilena del Cobre (COCHILCO). There are also several European information data suppliers, including Terrabotics, Airbus and European Space Imaging and Intermap involved, with UK Trade and Investment at the British Embassy Santiago providing essential local coordination and facilitation support.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “Following workshops held earlier in the year, in both the UK and Chile, we spotted an opportunity to help Chile’s small and mid-sized mining operations by taking advantage of space-enabled technologies. In this project, we will be providing and analysing space-derived observation data, to enable significant improvements to the complex workflows of the companies and public sector organisations involved, that will underpin a radical modernisation of the small and medium mining supply chain. To achieve this, we will be building on our competencies, and those of our partners, in environmental management and state-of-the-art visualisation.”

Stuart concluded: “This is the latest in a series of collaborative projects with Chilean organisations encompassing land use, agriculture, disaster management and environmental monitoring in mineral extraction. We are looking forward to continue developing further collaborative partnerships with our friends in Chile in the future.”

This project is being supported by the Newton Fund, and is due to be completed at the end of 2016. It is hoped to generate significant commercial opportunities for UK and Chilean companies alike in this area during 2017 and beyond. A briefing on Chilean opportunities for the UK space supply companies and academic organisations is being held at the Catapult on 15 September 2016. This will address not only the mining sector but others including agriculture, infrastructure development and the creative economy.