Professionals from the Scientific and Technological Center of Valparaíso, AC3E, and the Office of Technological Transfer of USM spent four weeks at the mining company, focusing their work on improving operational processes, contributing to the reduction of production costs, and increasing energy and water efficiency.
By María José Aragonés G. | Journalist, Directorate of Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, USM.
The productive sector, especially the mining industry, currently faces significant challenges related to climate change and water crises. This has prompted companies to review their processes innovatively, using technology to address these issues and align their activities with an increasingly vigilant community that demands environmentally friendly production and the development of territories.
Under this premise, professionals from the Federico Santa María Technical University conducted an exploratory internship at Codelco Ventanas, which lasted four weeks as part of the framework agreement between the educational institution and the mining company. The group of interns included Simón Cubillos from the Scientific and Technological Center of Valparaíso, Gonzalo Gallo from AC3E, and Alejandro Carvallo from the Office of Technological Transfer and Licensing, USM.
“It is an excellent opportunity that not only allows us to get to know production processes up close but also to identify areas where the university’s work can be applied in the field of innovation or technological transfer. In addition, we hope that this first interaction opens other doors for collaboration at both the professional training and R&D levels,” comments María José Escobar, Director of Community Engagement at USM.
The General Manager of Codelco Ventanas, Ricardo Weishaupt, mentioned, “Codelco in general, and our Division in particular, are at a turning point where we must transform and prepare for the next 50 years. In the case of Ventanas, after the closure of the Smelter in May of this year, we are focused on enhancing the business of the Electrolytic Refinery, which produces high-quality cathodes in an environmentally friendly process with no atmospheric emissions but can certainly be reviewed and perfected.”
The internship aimed to identify collaboration opportunities and propose an initial approach for a long-term connection in knowledge and technology transfer, involving three professionals from USM from the Advanced Center of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (AC3E), the Scientific and Technological Center of Valparaíso (CCTVal), and the Office of Technological Transfer and Licensing (OTTL), under the Directorate of Development and Technological Transfer.
Among the activities carried out by the participants was on-site familiarization with the company’s facilities and processes, as well as an analysis of production metrics to contribute technological and innovative solutions, always with a focus on sustainability as the central axis of Codelco’s action plan.
“It was a beneficial and enriching experience, an opportunity that provides significant personal and professional learning, as it allows an approach to the on-site process and visualizing the daily reality of the industry,” said Simón Cubillos, a metallurgical civil engineer and member of the Industrial Processes area of CCTVal, reflecting on his experience.
The professional also emphasized that “it is essential to be able to listen and talk about the challenges of the national industry directly with its engineers, technicians, superintendents, and operators. Forming bonds with this large state-owned company is essential to generate a strategic alliance in R&D, focusing on mining-metallurgical processes, communities, and sustainability.”
Gonzalo Gallo, Head of the Development Unit of the Advanced Center of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (AC3E), stated, “The intention is to develop projects with Codelco that allow us to make progress in solving current and critical issues for the company, such as automation and sensing, water and energy efficiency.”
“We have established this virtuous relationship with the world of academia and research, convinced that this collaboration can make significant contributions to the sustainable development of a strategic industry for the region, such as Codelco Ventanas,” concluded the General Manager of the mining company.