"In 2020, we introduced robotics in the change of mill lining, which is critical both from the point of view of production and the risk it entails for people."
How did you overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic?
2020 was a year of extraordinary efforts to sustain operations, with a solid focus on controlling and managing the pandemic. Despite these challenges, we are very satisfied with the results as we maintained our growth amid the outbreak. Our construction company witnessed increased sales, despite being one that faced the most challenges as there was an operation with more than 1,000 people, but thanks to the safety protocols and the workers' commitment, the result was excellent.
The technology company also experienced significant advancement. In 2020, we introduced robotics in the change of mill lining, which is critical both from the point of view of production and the risk it entails for people. We advanced technology in Minera Los Pelambres with AMSA. It is a pioneering application worldwide, and we are pleased because we were able to demonstrate robotic arms' performance. This technology will come into operation 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 solid position, for example, in Antapaccay, as well as in the ports of Matarani and Callao. We have an exciting application of casting in Magotteaux in the US, which reduces the need for individuals in the assembly of moulds in foundries.
On the other hand, last year, we contacted potential clients in European, particularly foundries in Finland and Sweden, for applications in melting furnaces. We are in the implementation phase at BHP's Olympic Dam in Australia and see applications for foundries in France. We have also presented our developments to Anglo American foundry specialists globally.
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 promoted 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 relevant changes in the company to respond to new business opportunities. We signed an agreement with the University of Concepción to incorporate artificial intelligence in the application of robotic technology to the change of mill lining. With this, we are going to structure an entire artificial intelligence program for the company. We are also developing a global monitoring centre for all the robotic operations that we are implementing. It is a process in which we already have relevant experience. Years ago, when we developed the plant maintenance services company, we set up a monitoring centre for the mills and their motors in different operations in Chile, Argentina, Peru and Brazil.
Do you think Chile is going to become a significant mining technology exporter?
Chile, due to its strong, established mining industry, is becoming a pole of technological development. We are a company with an innovative outlook, 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 global scale robotics development centre for mills.
Where do you see the highest growth potential for the company in the coming years?
The copper industry is to witness bullish projections due to electro-mobility and technological developments that rely on copper, which will continue to increase demand. Our vision is to become a leading robotics company worldwide in the mining and heavy industry sectors. To achieve this, we have transformed into two entities: on the one hand, we are launching a company specialized in the application of robotics in mills. On the other hand, the robotics base company, MIRS, has been reinforced with new executives for the international development of the business, as we recently opened the MIRS office in Australia.