Mineral Development Center
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Mineral Development Center

Mineral Development Center - The technology behind mining

For nearly 50 years, the laboratories located in Santa Luzia (state of Minas Gerais) have been the birthplace of most of Vale's mineral projects.

For nearly 50 years, our laboratories located in Santa Luzia (Minas Gerais) have been the birthplace of most of Vale's mineral projects.

Whether on a mountain top, miles below the surface, or even in the middle of the Andes. No matter where Vale operates, research will begin at our Mineral Development Center (MDC). Vale investigates methods to produce and process various types of ore there.

For nearly 50 years, the laboratories located in Santa Luzia (state of Minas Gerais) have been the birthplace of most of Vale's mineral projects. Engineers, chemists, geologists and other experts conduct various studies and tests to ensure project viability.

This initial research generates fundamental information for implementation and operation:
- What is the quality and concentration of minerals?
- What is the mine’s forecast lifespan?
- How can we develop environmentally sustainable technologies?
- What type of technology should be used for extraction and transportation?

Get to know the minerals Vale has researched in more than 70 years:


The MDC is considered the most sophisticated and complete laboratory complex geared to research and development in the mineral area in Latin America, and one of the most modern mineral technology development centers in the world. It was the first of its kind to be granted the ISO 14001 environmental certification, and Vale's first research center in Brazil to be ISO 17025 certified.

O CDM está pesquisando técnicas de biolixiviação – que utiliza bactérias e fungos para extrair minerais em metais de baixa concentração, como o níquel e o cobre. Os micro-organismos, que já existem no solo, são procriados em super 'geladeiras' (uma espécie de incubadora) nos nossos laboratórios. A ideia é usá-los para 'comer' o rejeito, ao invés de produtos químicos

MDC is researching innovative bioleaching techniques, using bacteria to extract metals such as nickel and copper contained in minerals not currently processed. Microorganisms already existing in the soil are bred in incubators in our laboratories. The idea is to use them as “accelerators” of chemical reactions, helping to reduce the consumption of reagents and water.

Há quase 50 anos, os laboratórios localizados em Santa Luzia (MG) são o berço da maioria dos projetos minerais da ValeUma das pesquisas em curso no CDM é sobre os minerais terras raras. Apesar da sua abundância na natureza em comparação a outros minérios, eles são mais difíceis de extrair, devido em parte às suas composições químicas. Esses metais são matérias-primas da indústria de alta tecnologia, comumente usados na produção de tecnologias verdes, como catalisadores, peças para turbinas eólicas e até em carros híbridos.

One of the research projects in progress at the MDC is on rare earth minerals. Despite their abundance in nature compared with other minerals, they are more difficult to extract due, in part, to their chemical compositions. These metals are high-tech industry raw materials, commonly used in the production of green technologies such as catalysts, parts for wind turbines, and even hybrid cars.

When the MDC was created, the hematite reserves in the Cauê Mine, Vale's first mine, were increasingly deep, threatening the operation's feasibility. Thus, it was necessary to create a technology that would allow high-grade ore to be extracted and used at low costs and also process itabirite with low iron content. The MDC led the way, and Vale bet on the pioneering use of the magnetic separators. Would you like to know more about how Vale is using technology and has been able to enhance the life of its 1st mine? Click here.

Mineral research in the Andes

Always in pursuit of innovation, Vale has used photovoltaic panels to substitute for diesel fuel consumption by generators at one of the mineral research projects around the world the MDC partners with.

Located in the Andes, in the Atacama region, in Chile, at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters, solar energy is used mainly to heat the camp's lodging facilities, where about 70 people work. Discover curiosities in the photo gallery.

The environment is harsh, with temperatures ranging from -15oC to 14oC. The terrain resembles the Martian soil, but, in fact, it is Project Nemesis' copper research area. Solar energy fuels our mineral exploration camp in the middle of the Andes, in the region of Atacama, in Chile, at an altitude of 4,000 meters. Photovoltaic panels replace part of the consumption of diesel generators that are used, mainly, to heat the camp's lodging facilities. This is the first time solar cells are used in high South American mountains Thanks to the use of solar energy, it has been possible to reduce the project's CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions by 66%. In a four-month period, 2,600 liters of diesel fuel were consumed. Had photovoltaic panels not been used, consumption would have reached 7,700 liters. In the first Nemesis research season, about 70 people worked at the camp at the top of the Andes.