Water demand for Chilean mining ops rises sharply

Published January 11th, 2018

Chilean copper commission Cochilco this week revised sharply upwards its projected seawater use figures in mining over the next decade, as demand for copper pushes up prices, and depleting ore reserves require more intensive water use for extracting the metal.

A new Cochilco report raises the projected consumption of desalinated and raw seawater in 2027 by around 15% versus this time last year, to almost 1 million m3/d.

“Almost every new mining project will require seawater or wastewater reuse,” Cochilco’s director for research and public policy Jorge Cantallopts told GWI.

Seawater use is projected to rise by more than 248% in the Antofagasta region, where the BHP Escondida desalination plant opened in 2017, and plants for the BHP Spence and Radomiro Tomic mines are scheduled to be inaugurated between 2019 and 2021.

Increased desalination capacity will also be required in the Atacama, Tarapacá and Coquimbo regions, the report says.