Case study Minera HMC – Michilla

‘The Copper Mark changes the way in which we operate’

In March 2024, Minera HMC from Chile was awarded The Copper Mark for its Michilla site. It is the first medium-sized mining company to achieve this in the country. Board member and CFO Diego Arrigorriaga explains the actions required on the part of Minera HMC for this and especially also the added value of the independent certification. “Obtaining The Copper Mark for our Michilla site makes our company more valuable, both in general terms and for our shareholders.”

For Minera HMC, The Copper Mark for the Michilla site means

Creating extra value for the company                   Further upgrading of its ESG standards

Being able to meet LME requirements                  • Increased safety for its workers

Improved communication with local communities Greater involvement from employees

Minera HMC is a relatively young company. Founded in 2001, it focuses exclusively on creating a second life for mines that others no longer see potential in, explains Diego Arrigorriaga. With this as the starting point, Minera HMC acquired the Michilla mining site in northern Chile in 2016. Here, it produces 21,000 tonnes of copper cathodes annually. In addition to the reprocessing of waste material, the company does this through open-pit mineral exploitations and further crushing, agglomeration, solvent extraction and electro-winning.

ESG high on the agenda

An essential part of Minera HMC’s business strategy is its strong focus on the environment, social aspects and governance (ESG). Diego Arrigorriaga: “Profit is not the only indicator for our company. Ideally, we would like to become a B Corporation (certified B Corporations are leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy, ed.). Unfortunately, this certification did not apply to mining companies at the time. Therefore, we searched for some other way to certify our ESG attributes and further improve our operations. At that same time, the London Metal Exchange – the LME – was raising the requirements for participation in its certification program. Through The Copper Mark, it became apparent that we would qualify for this and much more. The Copper Mark also has a strong focus on ESG attributes and such; it is an integral assurance framework. In view of our business philosophy, The Copper Mark was therefore really a good match for us.”

Engaged younger workers

“Much more than a certification, I would refer to the process of obtaining The Copper Mark as an implementation,” continues Diego Arrigorriaga. “This was not a matter of simply gathering documents; it really required us to change the way in which we operate. Having said that, we found that many of our younger workers – especially women – were very interested in participating in the implementation. It served as an excellent tool for the younger generation in our company to flourish and to demonstrate what they wanted to do.”

Concrete actions

Attention to the environment, to the communities and to safety were the three main issues for the implementation of The Copper Mark for the Michilla site. “We had to make quite a number of changes. For example, we created a new corporate position related to environmental management to in this way reduce our risks in this field. We also reinforced our community’s team. Until recently, community relations were maintained locally by the Michilla mining site. In the implementation process of The Copper Mark, this became a corporate responsibility. I believe that our neighbouring communities are now more understanding of our endeavours. Our communication with them has improved. Last but not least, we’ve created a safer working environment for our employees.”

Minera HMC is still further developing the human rights aspects. Diego Arrigorriaga: “We assisted one of our team members to become an expert on human rights issues. Meeting all requirements in this field definitely has our full attention.”

Obvious benefits

Looking back, Diego Arrigorriaga concludes that the 1.5 years it took to prepare and then to acquire The Copper Mark for the Michilla site was definitely worth it. “The benefits are obvious. It entails much more than a way to meet the requirements of the LME. Obtaining The Copper Mark certification also reduces the risk of our operation. It makes the company more valuable, both in general terms and for our shareholders. And that is on top of all the benefits it brings to our workers, the local communities and the local government. I am absolutely confident that we have improved our company.”