Southern Copper Peru’s (NYSE: SCCO) superintendent of environmental services, Eduardo Talavera, said over the weekend that water use would not increase at the Cuajone copper mine as a result of its expansion project.
During a presentation at the Institute of Mining Engineers of Peru, Talavera also noted that the project’s water use will be efficiently managed by applying technical procedures for water restitution and recycling. As an example, he mentioned the implementation of high-efficiency thickeners that allow for a reduction in freshwater consumption and an increased use of recovered water.
The executive also said that Southern Peru is evaluating the possibility of recycling 90% of the water employed at Cuajone, as well as the idea of switching to dry and muddy tailings. The latter would create additional opportunities to recycle water.
In addition to the new tailings management system, Talavera said there are also plans to start building, in March 2024, a landfill with two safety cells for the disposal of hazardous waste. The landfill is expected to have an operational life of 15 years and will be run under the standards of the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Law.
He also said that Cuajone will employ mobile misting cannons, which use catalyzed water and are transported by a large truck, and whose function is to suppress dust and reduce emissions of particulate matter in areas such as the waste rock deposit, the intermediate piles, the primary crusher and the conveyor belt.
“Among other initiatives, we hope to complete a new forest nursery by 2024, which will have better infrastructure and equipment for efficient water management, as well as for the propagation of better quality seedlings,” Talavera said. “We also expect to optimize our compost production areas to make better use of this material.”
Located in the southern Moquegua region, Cuajone is Southern Copper’s second-largest mine in Peru. Its $850-million expansion project, yet to be started, would increase the capacity of the concentrator plant to 120,000 tonnes per day from the current 85,000 tonnes per day, relying on estimated resources of 2,000 million tonnes of ore.
The mine, however, has been sieged by protests led by the nearby Tumilaca-Pocata-Coscore-Tala farming communities who have expressed ongoing concerns -among other things- about the operation’s water usage and future water management plans.
Southern Copper, part of Grupo Mexico, is one of the biggest copper companies by mineral reserves.
Peru, on the other hand, is the world’s second-largest copper producer after Chile and is also a significant silver and zinc global supplier.