With 133 patents granted in Chile, 155 registered commercial brands and important agreements in the fields of scientific and technological collaboration, the Company leads patenting activities among the mining companies in Chile. In 2014, Codelco submitted 12 patenting applications before the INAPI.
“One of Codelco’s strategic objectives is to develop and adapt technologies, to find new exploitation methods and to generate knowledge, in order to contribute to the achievement of our goals regarding safety, sustainability, cost reduction and productivity”, affirms Fidel Báez, Codelco’s Technology and Innovation Manager, in connection to the World Intellectual Property Day, celebrated on April 26.
In this regard, the development of technologies has brought about the protection of innovations, which has caused the Company to be ranked amongst the Chilean mining firms with the most patent applications requested in Chile, with over 200 applications and 133 granted for the period between years 1976 and 2015.
Codelco fosters innovation so as to improve the competitiveness of its mining and metallurgic operations, creating conditions that enable the development of solutions and collaborative work for facing its technical challenges.
During recent years, Codelco’s inventive activity has gradually increased – both from division as well as from the corporate headquarters – invigorating itself through technological affiliates such as the Institute for the Innovation in Mining and Metallurgy (Instituto de Innovación en Minería y Metalurgia), IM2, and Biosigma, as well as from technical and scientific alliances with several national and foreign entities.
Regarding education and training in intellectual property, Codelco is currently in the midst of a process to implement a plan – with the cooperation of INAPI and IM2 – to inform the Company’s various levels about the relevance of protecting and managing proprietary intellectual assets and well as those of third parties, along with their impact in the various processes operated by the Company. Furthermore, the plan seeks to establish a support unit and specialized consultancy in Intellectual Property, tasks which would be entrusted in affiliate IM2.
One of Codelco’s most successful creations is the Teniente Converter, a technology that accelerates the pyrometallurgical processes. It is a reactor that is capable of melting and converting copper concentrates to white metal using a single equipment, without requiring the contribution of external energy. This invention – made in Chile and patented in 1978 – was Codelco’s first patent and is a product for export, particularly since the late 1980s. As from that date, its performance has been improved by more than 270%.
Mining companies from Chile, Perú, Mexico, Zambia and Thailand have acquired Teniente Converters for their foundries. In all cases, Codelco has also contributed with expert know-how consultancy for the converter’s commissioning.
Through its Biosigma affiliate, Codelco owns 6 invention patents in connection with bioleaching processes. This technology – developed by Biosigma and which uses microorganisms – allows for the efficient extraction of copper from low-grade sulfide minerals, at a very low cost. Bacteria are able to dissolve iron and sulfur, releasing the copper and leaving it in soluble form, even from chalcopyrite.
In 2013, Codelco patented the pre-conditioning technology, that consists in fracturing the rocky mass in order to facilitate its exploitation in underground mining.
During year 2006, Codelco commenced a program which sought to automate its concentrator plant. Currently, it is seeking to automate the underground mining processes of open pit mining.
Codelco owns a patent over this process since 2012 and is in the process of worldwide patenting. This extraction method has entailed a technological breakthrough, since it is a continuous technology for extracting and managing the mineral continuously in underground mining.