Exporting mining expertise to South America

An award from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s ‘Chile Prosperity Fund’ enabled our Department of Geology to create training opportunities for the South American mining industry.

Extraction of natural resources is crucial to the Chilean economy, with copper alone – Chile has about 40% of the world’s copper deposits – accounting for a large part of the country’s GDP. Chile also produces and exports significant quantities of silver, gold, iron ore, lithium, iodine, sodium nitrate (saltpetre), potassium nitrate and molybdenum.

The Department of Geology was already working with Swiss-based building materials conglomerate LafargeHolcim (owners of Leicestershire-based Aggregate Industries UK Ltd) to deliver a Postgraduate Certificate in Quarry Management and Operations. This is a one-year blended learning course aimed at LafargeHolcim employees but with the potential for adaptation to other employers in the sector.

The FCO funding enabled the development of online short courses, available free to anyone living or working in Chile. These drew on the Department’s expertise and used output from various projects including some funded through the UK’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, which addressed many operational and environmental aspects of surface mining. These CPD courses are endorsed by the Geological Society of London and approved by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. From late 2017 they will be available to the wider global mining market.

In tandem with these courses, and with help from UKTI, the Department has also delivered specialist seminars in Santiago and Antofagasta.

"This project will strengthen the reputation of the University’s Department of Geology within the South American mining sector, which will hopefully lead to further collaborative projects and potential student recruitment. It will also help portray the UK as a partner of choice to the Chilean/South American mining sector for training and development, and encourage membership of UK-based professional bodies such as the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the Geological Society of London, and the Institute of Quarrying."

- Toby White, Project Manager, Department of Geology, University of Leicester