Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Team 6 - SQM

SQM is a mining company that is a world leader in Specialty Plant Nutrition (fertilizer), Iodine, and Lithium. Myself, along with Steve Croke, Stacy Fantauzzi, Jim Jednak, and Yayi Wei had the privilege of leading the group in welcoming SQM's CEO and President, Mr. Patricio Contesse.

Since their mines are over 1000 miles away, a site visit was out of the question, so Mr. Contesse stopped by our hotel for a two-hour discussion about his operation. All of SQM's products extracted from the mines and salt deposits are environmentally safe, as well as all of their waste products. This is unheard of in any other industry.

As with all the other speakers this week, Mr. Contesse was more than willing to talk about his company and field many of our questions. He is very proud of the company, and is not shy about expressing this. In Mr. Contesse's words, "This company is fantastic".

2 comments:

Linda K said...

How did the mining operations there compare to what you know about (or believe about) US mining operations? How is safety viewed there? Is there a Chilean equivalent of OSHA?

bfunk said...

Hello Linda:
The mining process is similar to oil in the sense that the product is pumped up from the ground at a rate of 700 liters per second (175 gallons approx.), which is set by the government. As of August 1, this limit is being raised to 1200 liters per second (300 gallons approx.). The product is pretty much left on the ground in huge piles to be hauled away by dump trucks for processing.

Although OSHA is an international organization, the Chilean equivalent is the Division of Environmental Health. Worker safety in the mines and other equipment operation was not really addressed; however, Mr. Contesse commented that 100% of both the finished products and waste products are all natural and environmentally friendly.