Chile produces nearly a quarter of the world’s copper supply, with the majority of production coming from the northern provinces (Exhibit 1). That same region is one of the driest places on the planet.
BHP’s (ASX, LON, NYSE: BHP) Escondida and Spence copper mines in northern Chile are poised to pay a total of $840 million for an early end to a 2008 energy contract with a coal-fired thermoelectric plant.
Cochilco analyst Camila Montes said desalination use would grow most in the drier northern parts of the country, forecasting 65% usage in Antofagasta, 60% in Tarapaca, 42% in Atacama and 25% in Coquimbo.
The addition of seawater desalination to a large-scale project adds at least a billion dollars to project capex, up to over $3 billion for a massive plant such as the 2,500 litres per second (lps) plant BHP added at Escondida in 2018.
Acciona has signed a supply deal with Chilean water utility Empresa Concesionaria de Servicios Sanitarios SA (ECONSSA Chile) that will fulfil the energy needs of a water desalination plant set to come online in the Atacama desert next year.
The Spanish firm said in a release on Wednesday that it will supply energy to the plant from a mix of its Chilean renewables operations. It claims to have 291MW of operational facilities and 393MW under construction.
“These new renewable energy contracts will increase flexibility for our power portfolio and will ensure security of supply for our operations, while also reducing costs and displacing CO2 emissions,” BHP Minerals Americas president Daniel Malchuk said.
Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday announced the creation of a working group of government agencies, academics and industry players to tackle the worst drought in 60 years which has spiked this year amid record lows of rainfall.
The government has declared water shortages in more than 50 communities across three regions of its normally lush central belt so far this year, and an associated agricultural emergency across more than 100.
An agreement between UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute Centre of Excellence in Chile (SMI-ICE-Chile) and TRENDS Industrial paves the way for collaboration on an integrated multi-user desalination supply system in Chile’s Atacama region.
After a two-year construction period, the first clean water flowed from the Tocopilla Desalination plant in May 2019. PENETRON ADMIX was specified over a competitive crystalline admixture as a superior performing waterproofing solution for the concrete water tanks.
Part of the Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), a Colombian conglomerate with holdings in the water and sanitation industry, the Aguas de Antofagasta (ADASA) is a Latin American leader in water desalination.
In operation since 2003, ADASA currently provides clean water to 546,000 inhabitants in seven Chilean towns. In total, the company treats 2.11 m3 (560 gallons) of water per second, with about 30% originating from seawater.
For this purpose, it has desalination plants in Taltal and Antofagasta, the latter considered the largest water desalination plant in Latin America, with a production of 600 liters (160 gallons) per second.
Authorities from Chile and Peru highlighted the advance of desalination projects in the two countries, stating that these plants will become more important in the coming years due to ongoing water scarcity, which is expected to worsen due to climate change.
During a congress held by the Latin American desalination and water reutilization association (Aladyr) in Santiago, Chile’s public works undersecretary, Lucas Palacios, highlighted that the country has high potential for desalination projects, due to its extensive coastline and the fact that many of its major cities are close to the sea.