"Companies have become more concerned about their corporate image, which has forced them to follow the global standard. Much of Knight Piesold’s current work is aimed at helping the mining industry standardize its tailings deposits."

Mario Lazo Emparanza

REGIONAL MANAGER, KNIGHT PIESOLD

July 10, 2024

Can you introduce Knight Piesold and the company’s presence in Chile?

Our goal is to become a company specializing in geotechnical services and water management for the mining industry. Recently, we completed the ninth phase of the Talabre reservoir for Codelco's Northern District, which features a wall extending over 30 km. We began more than three years ago with conceptual engineering, followed by basic and detailed engineering, and today, we do QA services for construction. 

What recent trends in the tailings space has Knight Pieseld observed?

Tailings deposits of the past were garbage dumps where mining companies disposed of their waste, not just grinding product but also contaminated water and other things. This has changed over the years due to the environmental permits and the global standard which obliges tailings deposits to have safety standards. Companies have become more concerned about their corporate image, which has forced them to follow the global standard. Much of Knight Piesold’s current work is aimed at helping the mining industry standardize its tailings deposits. Countries like Chile, the USA, Canada, Mexico, and some countries in Africa have long mining histories which require a lot of capital to standardize deposits under the global standard.

This demand has caused a high demand for specialists that simply do not exist. Existing specialists are being demanded at a high rate, which has made the standardization process of the tailing dams much slower. By working with universities, we are trying to create more professionals in this area.

What are the challenges facing the mining sector?

Among the most important are environmental and social sustainability, improving waste management, minimizing ecological impacts, and collaborating with local communities. Climate change is also a crucial issue, with the need to reduce emissions and adopt renewable energies. 

The shortage of skilled labor, the volatility of metal prices, cybersecurity risks, and the need to maintain investor confidence add complexity to the situation. Finally, the circular economy, focused on recycling and reusing metals, emerges as a key approach to reducing waste.

At Knight Piesold, the biggest challenge in the mining industry is the lack of professionals, and part of this has changed how we determine what to do with senior professionals. It has become more difficult for these professionals to retire as they provide an invaluable mentoring experience for young people entering the industry being an important part in the virtuous cycle of on-the-job training.

How can the mining industry adapt to more intense climate events and contribute to global climate change mitigation efforts?

The changing climate has been considered in many of Chile’s mining operations. The El Niño phenomenon, for example, has existed for centuries since it has to do with the heating of the water and currents. The difference today is that these processes are happening much more quickly. Before the climate would fluctuate between the El Niño and La Niña phenomenon every few years. Now, the climate alternates between these two phenomena twice in the same year. It is not that there are new events, but rather these events will be more intense. Rains will be more intense. The heat will be more intense. The industry must manage its design criteria to associate with this intensity. 

Climate change started a while ago. The events that are happening now are a product of a bad industrialization. What we do today will not have immediate consequences, but consequences that will be felt in years to come. We need to put the umbrella down and confront the damage we have done. On a country-wide level, we must consider how to generate solutions that favor the normalization of the climate.

What is the company’s strategic focus moving forward?

There are many options for companies in the current day. Many decide to maximize profit through size growth. However, this path can compromise quality and expertise. At Knight Piesold, we aim to be a company that is specialized rather than large. We want to deliver quality services to our clients. The company is made up of highly qualified professionals. We want to deliver specialized services using advanced technologies, like AI, and to support them with specialized professionals. We are looking for organic growth which includes the training of new professionals. 

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