Copper mines in Chile to triple seawater usage over next decade

9 January 2019 (Last Updated January 10th, 2019 05:14)

Copper miners in Chile are expected to triple their seawater usage over the next ten years as they seek alternatives amid increasing water shortage, stated the country’s state copper agency Cochilco.

Copper mines in Chile to triple seawater usage over next decade
Chile is a leading copper producer in the world. Credit: Patrick Lauke / Flickr.

Copper miners in Chile are expected to triple their seawater usage over the next ten years as they seek alternatives amid increasing water shortage, stated the country’s state copper agency Cochilco.

By 2029, both desalinated and ocean seawater could cater to 43% of the miners’ demands, reported Reuters, citing the agency.

BHP, Glencore, Anglo American, and most other top producers mainly operate in Northern Chile.

This is not only an arid desert region but is also considered to be one of the driest places on Earth.

The state agency’s report stated: “More and more miners are building their own desalination plants or using water straight from the ocean to confront shortages of water.”

According to Cochilco, production of red metal is expected to grow more than six million tonnes for the first time this year and will continue to experience a 30% growth over the next ten years.

Copper production could reach a record-breaking 7.25 million tonnes annually by 2025, primarily due to several new projects and mine expansions amid declining ore grades at older mines.

“More and more miners are building their own desalination plants or using water straight from the ocean to confront shortages of water.”

Existing and ageing mines will see a 19% annual decline in production to 4.46 million tonnes. However, this decline will be negated by new projects and planned expansions.

Cochilco warns that production growth will continue only if a recent lot of mining investments materialise.

State-owned miner Codelco recently launched a $39bn, ten-year investment plan to expand its productivity at its mines.

Anglo American recently announced its 660,000t copper production guidance for the year due to planned expansions at its Collahuasi and Los Bronces mines in Chile.