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Chile Looks to Gene Sequencing to Improve Copper Mining

NEW YORK, July 16 – Chile’s state-owned copper miner Codelco has announced plans to launch the Chile Genome Initiative, a project that will use gene sequencing to develop new strains of bacteria that can be used for commercial mining, Dow Jones reported.

Organizers of the initiative have invited private companies to join the “bio-mining” program, which is hoping to raise another $2.5 million from private investors, Dow Jones reported.

Codelco plans to contribute $500,000 to the project over the next three years and other government institutions will invest another $2 million into the research.

Organizers of the initiative said that new bacterial strains could either be applied to unique ore contents or used in the design of new bio-mining technologies.

"Competitive advantage in the mining industry is determined principally by technological innovation," Dow Jones cited Codelco director Juan Villarzu as saying. "The idea is to develop more specific ways of processing copper and if the project is successful, it will have a significant impact on the future development of mining."

The government is hoping to have the program’s administrative team in place within three months, and to auction concessions for various aspects of the research by the end of the year.

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