MAC: Mines and Communities

Chile entering a complex water shortage, demand copper miners to reduce comsuption

Published by MAC on 2009-04-14
Source: Reuters

SANTIAGO - Chile's government on Monday called on mining companies to further curb their water usage amid a shortage of the resource in the country's arid, mine-rich north.

Miners operating in Chile, the world's No.1 copper producer, have in recent years reduced their consumption of water, a key ingredient in copper production. They currently consume 11.5 cubic meters per second to produce a tonne of copper, down from 15 cubic meters in 2000.

"We are entering a complex water shortage phase in Chile. Water consumption to produce a tonne of copper is still high and we have to ask for more efficient usage," Public Works Minister Sergio Bitar said as the government signed a water-efficiency pact with mining companies.

Chile suffered one of its worst droughts in memory last year which hammered the agriculture and hydro-electric sectors and prompted miners to look at alternatives, such as desalination plants, to ensure supplies.

The government is concerned by a delay in the arrival of rains this year.

Francisco Costabal, president of the Mining Council that represents Chile's biggest copper mining enterprises, said the sector had cut consumption with projects to reuse water and measures to avoid evaporation by covering reservoirs. "We will continue our efforts to reduce water consumption per tonne", he said.

(Reporting by Monica Vargas, writing by Patricia Velez. Editing by Simon Gardner and Jim Marshall)

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