BHP Tailings Challenge seeks to increase the sustainability of copper tailings

Image: BHP.

BHP is committed to making progress in reducing and recycling waste with the Tailings Challenge, a new initiative that seeks innovative solutions for repurposing copper tailings.

The challenge is aimed at innovative companies, startups, consortia, research centres and universities worldwide.

These institutions are expected to develop new technological solutions and new business models for reusing copper tailings, such as turning them into commercial products via new materials or other applications.

The challenge, which is carried out with the support of Fundación Chile through the open innovation program in mining, Expande, will provide $US10 million ($14.3 million) in grants to developers.

During the launch, the Minister of Mining, Baldo Prokurica, said the initiative promoted the development of solutions that allowed the sector to be more sustainable and competitive over time.

“In recent years we have witnessed concrete steps that the national mining industry is providing to become a greener activity that promotes energy and water efficiency and the reduction of the environmental footprint,” Prokurica emphasised.

He highlighted the national plan for tailings deposits that undertook the state’s historical debt with the mining regions and the initiatives aimed at generating greater water efficiency, such as the investment in desalination plants that recycled up to 86 per cent of water and others that were using seawater.

Prokurica estimated that by 2030, 74 per cent of the water volume used by the new mining projects in Chile, would come from the oceans.

“Mining is fundamental for the development of Chile, but it must always be subject to sanitary criteria and respect for the environment and its communities,” he said.

“Mining will provide us with an indispensable lever to face the post-pandemic with job creation and development for the country, because mining has never failed Chile.”

Bryan Quinn, asset president joint ventures BHP, said the BHP Tailings Challenge was a fantastic opportunity to engage with a diverse group of stakeholders from around the globe to work on one of the industry’s largest challenges.

“We are looking for brilliant people and companies who can bring innovative ideas and solutions to increase the sustainability and reuse of tailings,” Quinn said.

Chief executive officer of Fundación Chile Marcos Kulka added that BHP Tailings Challenge was a concrete opportunity to generate activity in the sector in a context characterised by the health and economic crisis.

“The current volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world has forced us for many years to explore infinite possibilities to pursue initiatives that make a difference, that are transformational and that generate real value for companies, for the world of entrepreneurship and training, and the society as a whole,” Kulka said.

“It is a clear sign that cutting-edge innovation in mining is being managed in Chile and positions us at the forefront of ground breaking initiatives aimed at sustainability.”

Those interested in participating in the challenge must demonstrate execution capabilities to conduct laboratory/ concept tests that are robust enough to ensure transition to a pilot in an operational environment.

The process will end with a demo day in March 2023, an instance in which the winner or winners who have been able to tackle the challenge posed by the BHP Tailings Challenge will be announced, having developed a feasible tailings reutilisation solution from the technical and investment points of view.

Andrés Mitnik, business director of Expande, emphasised that carrying out a challenge of the complexity of the BHP Tailings Challenge required “a deep understanding of innovation processes as well as a global network capable of attracting state-of-the-art technology and the latest trends in sustainable business models.”

“There are few institutions in the world capable of doing something like this; that there is one in Chile speaks of the great advance that the innovation ecosystem has had at the local level,” Mitnik said.

Applications for BHP Tailings Challenge will be open until August 21 at www.tailingschallenge.com

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