Osvaldo's thesis made major contribution to mining industry

Osvaldo Urzua

Even before Osvaldo Urzúa had completed his DPhil in SPRU, his thesis about the development of more innovative supplier firms for mining operations in developing countries had made a major contribution to the industry in his home country of Chile and received international praise.

Osvaldo, 45, who graduates today (12 July 2013), previously worked for the Chilean government developing energy and environmental policies. He came to Sussex to do a Masters degree in Science and Technology Policy at SPRU in 2002 and went on to study for a doctorate.

While still completing his thesis, Osvaldo was hired to put it into practice by BHP Billiton, a global mining company with large copper mining operations in Chile. The company appointed him to design and implement a new programme to strengthen the innovation capabilities of its suppliers of equipment and engineering services in Chile. The aim was partly to enable them to develop new technologies for BHP Billiton with an emphasis on raising environmental sustainability and operational performance. But it was also to go beyond that and support their development into world-class suppliers to the international mining industry.

The scheme was implemented by the company in 2009, and has already resulted in such advances as reduction of electricity consumption by using remote monitoring to detect short circuits and dust abatement by developing a biopolymer for use in dust-abatement watering. Similar schemes have been adopted by other mining companies in Chile and abroad. In 2012 the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, presented BHP Billiton with the Mining Council Award for Best Practices in Large-Scale Mining – specifically for this World-class Supplier Development Program.  The scheme has also been shortlisted for a UK Business in the Community award as “one of the best examples of business as a force for good”.

Osvaldo, who has continued to work for BHB Billiton, says: “My key subject of interest was development and technological change, in particular, how can resource rich developing countries build up a trajectory to participate in technological change and catching up the developed world?

“I hope I can keep collaborating in the design, implementation and execution of natural resource-based development. It is likely that on the short and medium run I will keep engaged in my work within the mining industry, fostering the full potential of sustainable development of multinational mining companies.”

His DPhil supervisor Professor Martin Bell says: “Osvaldo’s achievement in linking his academic research at Sussex to such successful practical application in Chile is a truly outstanding achievement. It is all the more impressive because studying for a doctoral degree mid-career involves succeeding with much more than just an academic challenge – a part of the achievement to which Annie his wife, and his two daughters, Amelia and Matilda, have made a huge contribution.”

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Tuesday, 2 July 2013