"We are present across the whole value chain, from the mining infrastructure and production to the minerals' shipping."
Could you provide some background information about SKIC?
The company was established in 1960, so we have more than 60 years of operations in Chile. We currently operate in Chile, Peru, Brazil and Colombia as a regional EPC player, with an annual turnover around US$600 million and more than 15,000 employees We have always focused on large scale industrial installation projects, mainly in the mining industry. In mining, we can generate many synergies with other companies from the Sigdo Koppers Group, such as Enaex, Godelius, Puerto Ventanas and Magotteaux. We are present across the whole value chain, from the mining infrastructure and production to the minerals' shipping. We have expanded our scope from industrial installation to our current ability to handle EPC and BOP projects throughout the years. Beyond that, we have been present in large energy projects, with our involvement in more than 7,500 km of high voltage transmission lines in the region, as well as the related substations.
Can you give some details on your current work with mining clients?
Codelco is our main client today. We have supported them across most of their projects over the last 60 years.
Recently we have started working with Teck on two important projects. We are building the flotation area of Quebrada Blanca 2 and also the port. Teck is a new client for us, and I have no doubt that we will accomplish what we have done with other long-standing clients like BHP and Antofagasta Minerals. Gold Fields is also a new client for us in Chile. The Salares Norte project is challenging at over 4,000 meters above sea level, so that is forcing us to take a fresh look at pre-assembly and modular construction processes. The success of this project will be based on our joint work with Fluor on these aspects.
What trends and opportunities do you see in the mining industry in Chile?
I do not think we are experiencing the same mining boom we had 8-10 years ago. This said, we see more dynamism in lithium, rare earths and iron ore. It will take 5-7 years to ramp up these new projects, but there is an opportunity there because all these projects require a lot of infrastructure, from transmission lines to ports. The energy industry is going to be very relevant over the next years. We are currently participating in Chile in the biggest transmission line project in decades (Kimal-Lo Aguirre HVDC 1,500 km). Also, we will see more desalination projects that are energy-intensive, so this infrastructure will go hand in hand with renewable energy. We have already worked on the Escondida Water Supply (EWS) desalination plant for Escondida (2,500 l/s). We are currently bidding for a 2,400 l/s desalination plant in Peru and we are participating in various water and energy transmission tenders for Collahuasi. Finally, in terms of ports, we have just done the whole renovation of the ship loaders for Collahuasi. Changing the ship loaders means stopping production for three or four months; we managed to reduce that to nearly one month - a huge accomplishment thanks to the collaborative work together with our client.
How is the company evolving in terms of processes and new technologies?
A big transformation of SKIC over the last five years has been the migration to EPC projects. This way, we are much closer to the clients, being able to intervene in the early engineering phase, and this translates later into more productivity and a greater level of modularity and pre-assembly. We then wrap up the process with excellent logistics management.
The construction industry is the one that has the largest gap in terms of innovation. There is a lot of space to continue improving productivity and safety. In this respect, Godelius works with all the companies of the Group in new processes and new technologies. Our Toronto and Sudbury offices have alliances with several universities to innovate in remote operations, artificial intelligence, and robotics. We are the only company in South America that uses Boston Dynamics’ robots to link the data from the projects with our central system.
What are the prospects for the future?
We have already become an international EPC player, with a presence in the region and offices in Canada. As mineral prices go up, mining clients reactivate their medium to long-term projects, and if prices go down, we are well diversified anyway, with our presence in energy, infrastructure, and pulp and paper projects. Our geographical diversification will also help us weather potential downcycles.
Overall, the success of the company is the result of preserving some core values that cannot be compromised, such as sustainability, the environment, diversity, business ethics, inclusion and respect for local communities. With all that in place, you can progressively strengthen your technical capabilities to continue improving. All this has earned us a great reputation among the major mining transnationals, so we will be very active in mining in the years to come.