Iván Rayo, General Manager,
"In order for projects to be approved, they have to meet many requirements, including engineering, and we provide this service so that mining companies can manage their core business."
How was 2021 for JRI, and which of the company’s services were in most demand?
2021 was a very good year for JRI, as we managed to fulfil our business goals despite the challenges facing the industry both globally and locally. One of our main achievements was advancing the engineering of Codelco’s Rajo Inca project.
Another important element was that in 2021, unlike the previous year, there were more value engineering projects such as conceptual studies, optimization project and concentrate process debottlenecked. A large part of these value engineering projects are transformed into long-term investment projects.
The Rajo Inca development is going to extend mine life at Codelco’s Salvador division until 2065. Can you tell us more about JRI's involvement with this project?
JRI has developed all of the engineering studies for the Rajo Inca project from 2016. We started with the value engineering and conceptual studies with an integrate scope (mine, plants, tailing dumps and infrastructure), then the feasibility study, and right now we are finishing the detailed engineering. We support the contracts of the operational teams and, as the only engineering company that has interacted with Codelco in this project, our participation is fundamental. JRI has developed the project with modern work methodologies such as Lean Full Design. BIM 4D and Advance Work Package (AWP)
JRI designs treatment plants, designs pipeline systems for water and mineral transportation, and designs tailings dams. Can you explain how these services help the sustainability of a mining operation?
JRI’s business is distributed into four business units: plants, pipelines, dams and underground mining. In each of them, we address not only the design but also the sustainability component. We have a sustainability team at JRI that analyses the environmental and community aspects, permitting, and social license to operate. Within JRI’s sustainability team there are specialists for each of the business areas. For instance, sustainability problems in tailing dams are not the same as in an underground mine. In order for projects to be approved, they have to meet many requirements, including engineering, and we provide this service so that mining companies can manage their core business.
What would you say are the main differences between operating in Chile and Peru?
In Peru there is no large state mining corporation. Codelco is socially obliged to invest to maintain the copper production level, and accounts for over US$68 billion accumulated in Chile’s mining investment pipeline, more than 5% of all investment made on the country. A private company does not necessarily have to do it, if business is not good enough, or metal prices are low, or there is country risk. Peru depends more on the international market and private companies, and from our standpoint it can mean that engineering demands can be intermittent.
From a technical development point of view the two countries are very similar, with allows for synergies to engineering companies that work in both jurisdictions.
To what extent do you think political changes in Chile could impact the country's mining sector?
Royalty and regulatory decisions such as those being discussed today in Chile directly affect mining, and they impact the interest of international investors. For those of us operating in Chile the concern is high, as there is uncertainty. I have seen a certain animosity towards mining from some Chilean collectives that are anti-mining based on weak levels of information. They rather perceive dogmas than reality. As an industry, it is important for us to take action so as to show what is really being done, and demonstrate to Chilean society that mining is socially responsible and necessary for the country to prosper.
What would you like to achieve with JRI in Chile in 2023?
For 2023, we have a strategic plan that we updated last year related to diversifying as an engineering company. This includes looking at industries such as energy, and implementing more digital systems engineering, which is a path we started a long time ago but one which is gaining relevance. We also want to resume work outside of Chile.
JRI celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2022. Through 40 years of project development we have worked hard to advance the development of Chilean mining, and for any mining client, JRI is going to be able to bring a lot of real experience.