Antofagasta Minerals Recruits Nokia For Private LTE Install At Chilean Copper Mine


By James Blackman

Chile-based copper mining group Antofagasta Minerals has recruited Nokia to deploy a private LTE network at its Minera Centinela (Centinela mine) open pit copper mine in the Antofagasta region in northern Chile. It is the latest in a string of wins for the Finnish firm in the global mining sector, reflecting an appetite among mining companies to drive operational improvements with new cellular connectivity, edge functions, and Industry 4.0 applications.

Analyst house IDC, commissioned by Nokia, has polled the mining industry to calculate that 86 percent of mining companies will invest in wireless infrastructure in the next 18 months. Within the total addressable market audited by Nokia for private wireless networks, the firm has identified 54,000 mines. It has also counted 10 million, three million warehouses, 140,000 water utilities, 50,000 transport hubs, 47,600 power stations, among other candidate venues.

Nokia has LTE installs at the Las Bambas mine in Peru, the Cannington silver and lead mine in Australia, and the Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea. It has announced deals recently with Australian telo TPG Telecom on mobile private network solutions for the mining sector. It is also working with copper mining firm Codelco in Chile, Gold Fields in Chile, the Serra Leste mine in Brazil, the Carajás mine in Brazil, and Agnico Eagle Mines in Finland.

Nokia has developed close ties as well with the mining division of Swedish tool manufacturer Sandvik and Canadian not-for-profit NORCAT, which provides health and safety training for the mining industry. Nokia has also signed a number of ventures with mining companies in Russia, including with palladium and nickel mining company Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel), but its delivery system into Russia has been paused in line with international sanctions.

Nokia has just released a range of industrial 5G devices to go with its twin DAC and MPW private wireless products, and MX Industrial Edge (MXIE) edge portfolio. New ruggedized 5G SA devices include a smartphone, field routers, and a 5G millimeter wave (mmW) hotspot. Its MulteFire router for LTE in unlicensed spectrum is also being offered with the new devices portfolio. They are geared for the mining sector, among other Industry 4.0 venues.

The new arrangement with Antofagasta Minerals, part owned by British multinational Antofagasta, at the Centinela site in Chile will provide “reliable, high-capacity and low latency connectivity for sensors and vehicles”, both above and under-ground, including a fleet of autonomous trucks. The network took four months to deploy (“a record,” said Nokia). It represents the foundational layer for Antofagasta Minerals’ five-year digitalization plan, it said.

Antofagasta Minerals has four operations in Chile. The Centinela mine is located 1,350 kilometers north of Santiago at an important mining zone with sulfur and oxides. The mine produces copper concentrate and cathodes, as well as molybdenum and gold. The site has been certified with the Copper Mark for “internationally recognized sustainable production standards”. The new LTE installation will also support health and safety practices.

It appears the setup uses Nokia’s MPW (modular private wireless) macro-sized solution, rather than its plug-and-play DAC (digital automation cloud) solution, which has won the Finnish firm decent business with industrial customers. A statement said: “Nokia designed and deployed the… LTE solution, including [with] Nokia AirScale radio equipment, mobile packet core, IP/MPLS service aggregation routers, and Wavence microwave transmission.” Nokia claims 420-odd private wireless enterprise customers, including over 35 mining customers in more than 60 mines.

Technology manager for Antofagasta Minerals, Gino Ivani said: “We want to deliver excellence in everything we do, leveraging operational efficiencies to achieve the best results. We are committed to sustainable mining and to providing the safest and most efficient facilities. We are very pleased to leverage Nokia industrial-grade private wireless solutions and its experience in mining automation to support our efforts.”

Corporate head of IT projects at Antofagasta Minerals, Leonardo Serra said: “Copper is critical for the delivery of clean energy and consequently to reduce emissions. As demand for copper increases, we are deploying technology innovations, such as Nokia private wireless connectivity, allowing us to enhance productivity in a smart and sustainable way.”

Head of enterprise for Latin America at Nokia, Marcelo Entreconti said: “We are witnessing the first wave of Industry 4.0 projects in Latin America and it is very exciting to watch them become a reality for mining companies… Deploying these networks is… the first and most important step in the digitalization journey of mining companies, and lays the groundwork for an expansion beyond… where Nokia is already proposing solutions to the global mining community.”

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