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BHP and Microsoft will collaborate to improve copper recovery at BHP’s Escondida copper mine in Chile.

The collaboration will see BHP use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to optimise concentrator performance at the site.

Escondida is the world’s largest copper mine, with a known resource of 21.7 billion tonnes in 2019.

It is hoped that the new digital technology will allow the team at Escondida to generate more value from the existing resource.

“We expect the next big wave in mining to come from the advanced use of digital technologies,” BHP chief technical officer Laura Tyler said.

“As grades decline at existing copper mines and fewer new economic discoveries are made, next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics will need to be used to unlock more production and value from our existing mines.”

John Montgomery, Microsoft corporate vice president, AI platform said the company is keen to partner with BHP in a transformational project.

“We are excited to partner with BHP on this transformative project that demonstrates the power of AI, machine learning and cloud technologies”, he said.

BHP chief operating officer Edgar Basto detailed the important role copper will play in the future at the 2023 Austmine conference and exhibition on May 10.

“We expect global demand for copper to increase significantly as the world transitions to lower carbon sources of energy powered by more solar panels and wind turbines,” Basto said in his speech.

“We have operated Escondida in Chile, the largest copper mine in the world for more than 30 years… Every year, Escondida mines enough material to fill the Adelaide Oval to the roof 80 times, and produces enough copper to produce around 12 million electric vehicles.”