One of the most important economic activities in the Lumaco commune, La Araucanía region in Chile, is the production of charcoal, a work that has been carried out for more than a hundred years and is done mostly in the old-fashioned way, that is, in ovens – tunnels – embedded in the ground.
Given this reality, 37 families from that location created in 2018 the Coopcasi Cooperative (Cooperativa Carbonera y Silvoagropecuaria de Pichipellahuen), in order to make a leap in the technology for the elaboration of the product, in the required infrastructure, in brand design and packaging, in addition to marketing beyond the La Araucanía region.
In order to support the coal cooperative of Pichipellahuen in the Lumaco commune, CMPC implemented the Kuyulche (coal people) project that gave a strong boost to the families in their economic activity, essential for their income. Through this initiative, the company delivered transportable metal ovens that can be used at all times of the year and that allow charring between two to three days. In addition, it provided them with two storage sheds with machinery for selecting, weighing and packaging; and two closed trucks for transportation and distribution. In this project, CMPC also committed to deliver 50% of the raw material, plucking of pine and eucalyptus that remain after the harvest of forest plantations.
“The project strengthened the coal production chain, making it a product with traceability,” said Mauricio Parra, head of Public Affairs at CMPC Bosques. “This project is the result of a territorial alliance between our coal producers neighbors, the municipality of Lumaco and CMPC, which seeks through innovation, entrepreneurship and fair trade criteria, to generate local development by highlighting and making visible traditional items in the communes where we have forestry operations”, he added.
The decision to get associated under the umbrella of a cooperative, to have infrastructure and consultancies, were actions that influenced the take-off of this productive project, but so are the positioning and the search for a market niche to sell the production.
Although there is no regulation in Chile on charcoal, CMPC sent samples of this charcoal to the Chemical Analysis Laboratory of the University of Concepción to measure its quality. The final report on its composition and characteristics showed that Lumaco coal is a mixture of 30% pine and 70% eucalyptus, which contributes to easy ignition and that its caloric power is maintained.
The president of the Cooperative, Pedro Ortiz, commented that “getting associated, the support of the municipality and CMPC, without a doubt, have been key in our development. We are proud, because together with delivering our Kuyulche coal in our territory, we are also in the center of Temuco, in Espacio Fibra Local”, a place that brings together entrepreneurs and artisans from the Maule, Biobío and La Araucanía regions.
Ortiz pointed out that “this year we have also achieved several milestones, since we deliver a thousand bags monthly to the Chillán Fruit and Vegetable Market, in the Ñuble Region; we are present in the Gran Concepción thanks to the trust of the Noble Corral butcher chain and the Kamadi company. Meanwhile, in Cañete, Curanilahue and Los Álamos, the Porvenir Supermarket has also wanted to have our coal in its premises”.