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Chile environmental regulator orders Antofagasta to apply risk control measures

Tidal waves caused the collapse of a construction platform belonging to Antofagasta Minerals’ INCO project in the country’s northern coast. (Image courtesy of SMA.)

Chile’s environmental regulator SMA said on Thursday it had ordered Antofagasta (LON: ANTO) to implement seven measures to control risks linked to the rescue of hydrocarbons.

The requested actions come after the collapse of a platform last month at the miner’s INCO infrastructure project, which includes a desalination plant and a water pipeline for Los Pelambres.

SMA said the measures are intended to prevent risks associated with the leak of hydrocarbons from submerged equipment.

They include setting up rescue centres for marine fauna, modeling of the hydrocarbon and/or oil plume, evaluating of areas of greater environmental sensitivity along the coastline, and executing “extraordinary” monitoring of birds and mammals.

Surveillance and extraordinary monitoring measures must be kept in place and construction work won’t be allowed to resume until the total recovery of substances and structures that represent risks to the environment.

Antofagasta flagged in June that the ongoing expansion of its flagship Los Pelambres operation would cost $2.2 billion, up from the previous estimate of $1.7 billion.

The revised figure represents a 30% increase from the costs estimated in 2021 and a 70% jump from the original estimate of $1.3 billion.

The Los Pelambres expansion will add 60,000 tonnes of copper a year over the first 15 years to the company’s overall production. Throughput at the plant will be increased from 175,000 tonnes of ore a day to an average of 190,000 tonnes a day.