From Chile’s sodium nitrate boom of the 19th Century to its position today as the world’s largest producer of copper (28% share) and second largest producer of lithium (22% share), Chile’s mining sector has, quite literally, always been the bedrock of its economy.
The sector’s contribution to GDP is 11% and today represents over 50% of the total exports, which in 2020 amounted to more than 37.5 billion U.S. dollars. Mining also accounts for 25% of investment received in Chile. Today the industry is focused on sustaining operations in a complicated environment, characterised by political and economic uncertainty.
On one hand mining is seen as a dirty industry that needs to clean up its act. In 2018 it contributed over 7% of the national ghg emissions. On the other it is known to be critical to the development of technology and equipment necessary for the rapidly growing clean growth economy. The use of copper, gold and lithium in the production of batteries and other components for electric vehicles is paramount.
Historically Copper mining in Chile had been done by open cast methods. As the huge open pits get deeper and deeper, the immense trucks that are used to bring the ore to the surface for processing are using more and more fossil fuels. The incorporation of Green Hydrogen to replace the conventional fuels provides an important opportunity to reduce the carbon emissions from this part of the process.
Another trend that is helping to reduce the particulate matter released from the open pit mines is to move the operations underground, where the different technology used produces less environmental issues.
For more details please see the sector specific report on mining.