Chile copper mines to triple use of sea water in 10 years—report

BHP has long pumped water from Atacama’s aquifers to feed operations at its sprawling Escondida mine in Chile. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto.)

Chile’s copper industry will triple its use of sea water for industrial processes in the next decade, state copper agency Cochilco said on Tuesday, as global miners in the world’s top producer of the red metal seek alternatives amid growing water shortages.

Cochilco said in a report that it expected use of sea water, both desalinated and direct from the ocean, to increase by 230 percent over 2018 levels.

Chile’s top miners, including BHP, Anglo American Plc, Glencore Plc and Antofagasta Plc, are primarily concentrated in the northern half of Chile, an arid desert region that is among the driest on earth.

Sea water could satisfy 43 percent of the miner’s demands by 2029, Cochilco said in the report.

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

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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