With the sanitary crisis, critical supplies for copper mining have been strongly affected, already in 2020 there was a drop in the production of sulfuric acid, a slowdown in the oil refining sector resulted in a lower availability of sulfur, a key supply for acid. At the same time, the Asian market increased the internal use of acid they produce, this is a problem if we consider that most of the acid imports in Chile come from the Asian continent and then enter through Puerto Mejillones.
This situation has increased both spot prices and the possibility of experiencing a stockout of this critical input, which has been key for the extraction of copper in the ore leaching process. This has been the case in Chile, which, being one of the largest copper producers worldwide, and according to the 2021 report of the Statista Research Department, in 2020 amounted to 5.7 million metric tons, suffered a great impact.
During the last few years, more than eight million tons of acid have circulated nationally, and the lower supply of acid in the industry has affected operations in the mining region. According to Cochilco, in Chile there are 3 origins for the internal production of sulfuric acid. On the one hand, we have copper smelters, such as the Caletones smelter, for processing sulfide ores, metallurgical plants, such as molybdenum plants or roasting of concentrates with high arsenic content, and finally, sulfur burners, which would be sulfuric acid plants such as Noracid.
Despite the above, not enough is generated to supply the domestic mining market, one of the most intensive in the use of sulfuric acid, consuming around 8.5 million metric tons per year, where only 5.5 million tons are produced domestically.
It is expected that prices could fall, but the current supply of sulfuric acid will be maintained, due to structural limitations, for a few years.
This is why a number of challenges have arisen to make its logistics and management more efficient, from its source of origin to mining operations, ensuring greater copper production. Transporting a corrosive chemical is not an easy task, both because of its hazardous nature and the costs of transporting it by land and sea, since most of the internal supply of acid comes from the central-southern part of the country and the demand comes from the north. Along the way there may be certain difficulties, such as bad weather conditions, possible truck service stoppages, problems in the unloading process, spills, changes in delivery points or extra costs due to demurrage.
Antara TL (Transports Logistics), a platform that provides visibility and traceability to the logistics and transportation process of this mining supply, from the source of origin of the sulfuric acid, from the acid terminals, to the mining operations. Simplifying the management of this critical supplies and providing full information of this process, with reports, indicators and alerts that facilitate decision making and avoid possible damages, errors or delays.
Indeed, Antara TL, from Antara Mining Solutions, is positioned as a differentiating product to achieve the necessary efficiency in the dynamic process of sulfuric acid transport logistics for the mining industry.