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Technological Change and the Environmental Imperative

Challenges to the Copper Industry

Edited by Claes Brundenius

Technological Change and the Environmental Imperative considers the extent of the success of polluting industries in becoming cost-efficient whilst acquiring less polluting technologies, in the face of fierce competition. The authors also discuss what has been the impact of privatisation on this process and what lessons have been learnt. Against this backdrop, and drawing on case material from Chile, China, Peru and Russia, the book goes on to assess the latest technological breakthroughs, and their possible future impact on cost efficiency and the environment.
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Chapter 3: Technological change and the environmental imperative in Chile: challenges to the largest copper producer in the world

Claes Brundenius


Claes Brundenius* 1. INTRODUCTION Chile is the largest copper producing country in the world and by far the largest exporter of copper, and its predominance in the world market is increasing. Thus, the share of Chile in world mine production increased from 21 per cent in 1993 to 36 per cent in 2001, and in terms of smelter production Chile had surpassed both Japan and the United States by 2001 with a share of 12.5 per cent world anode output, compared with 12.1 per cent for Japan and 7.7 per cent for the United States (Bloomsbury 2000, RMD 2002). Copper accounts for about 45 per cent of Chile’s exports and almost 80 per cent of Chile’s mineral exports, in spite of important export diversification during the 1990s. This chapter discusses technological change and the environmental imperative from the perspective of the largest copper producer in the world, and a developing country at that. The focus is on smelters where most of the pollution problems arise, in particular sulphur dioxide emissions. There is mounting pressure from the leading copper producers in the world, including those in North America and Europe, on the Third World producers to upgrade facilities to allow for cleaner production. Section 2 of this chapter briefly presents Chile’s path to becoming the largest copper producer in the world, including the impact of the nationalization process at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. Section 3 focuses on the nationalized mining company, Codelco,...

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