Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: UC researchers transform copper tailings into construction materials

A group of researchers from UC Mining , Engineering and Construction Management , and Structural and Geotechnical , managed to transform copper tailings into construction materials, through innovative manufacturing processes.

The project called T2CM , which is supported by Dictuc SA, Melón, Eral, Noracid, Metso Outotec and Ausenco, seeks to reduce the environmental impact of mining waste and contribute to the sustainable development of the construction industry.

“A central aspect of the proposal created is the integration of technologies to transform tailings into safe and sustainable construction materials. The idea is to drastically reduce the volume of this waste in the environment ” , highlighted Mauricio López, UC Engineering academic.

The researcher leading the initiative added that another objective of the designed solution is to offer materials at a friendly and competitive cost from tailings. This project, he anticipated, would generate annual revenues of 227 billion dollars, by processing five million tons of tailings.

The UC proposal is one of the ideas selected by the “BHP Tailings Challenge” , which seeks solutions and new business models to reuse copper tailings. The challenge that is carried out with the support of Fundación Chile and Expande , will make available to the winners a capital of ten million dollars to implement the solution.


As the researchers detail, they focused on integrating technologies to transform tailings into safe and sustainable construction materials. The idea is to drastically reduce the volume of this waste in the environment.
“Super binder”
“The idea of ​​taking advantage of copper mining tailings was born from the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that cement production entails. This footprint is one of the main factors in the search for new materials and construction methods, ” said Mauricio López.

Therefore, the researcher explained that they analyzed the technical feasibility of creating new binders through an innovative use of copper mining tailings, combined with special treatments of these wastes, which allow obtaining a “super binder” , with positive environmental benefits. .

“We develop different products for construction using tailings from aggregates, to cement, through blocks, structural elements and even materials for 3D printing of houses,” said the engineer.

According to the expert, the project not only consumes the tailings that are an environmental liability, but also saves the use of non-renewable natural resources in construction.

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