MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2007-05-24


Escondida requests more time on Pampa Colorada EIS

BNAmericas, By Pablo Gaete

24th May 2007

Chile's Escondida copper mine has requested an extension to the evaluation process of the environmental impact study (EIS) for its Pampa Colorada water project to answer additional questions by authorities. "We want to properly answer all [of region II environmental regulator Corema's] questions," Mauro Valdés, VP of corporate communications for BHP Billiton base metals, told BNAmericas. BHP Billiton owns 57.5% of Escondida.

The extension grants Escondida until June 30 to update its study and respond to Corema's requests concerning Pampa Colorada, which represent about 10% of the information in the study, Valdés said. "This is a totally normal process and we are working to present the study shortly," he added.

In April Chile's general water department (DGA) asked Escondida to reduce its proposed use of water rights from 1,027 l/s of groundwater from the Atacama salt lakes in region II on concerns the extraction could affect the local ecosystem. Valdés explained that the 20-year Pampa Colorada project entails the use of water rights that Escondida does not own but which it has an option to buy. The official assured that Escondida remains interested in proceeding with the project but that "if the EIS is not approved we will search for water elsewhere."

Escondida in region II is the world's largest copper mine with an output of 386,623t in the first quarter. The minority stake in the mine is shared by London's Rio Tinto with 30%, Japan's Jeco Corporation with 10% and the International Finance Corporation with 2.5%.

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