MAC: Mines and Communities

Dewatering Argentina: a Chilean plan?

Published by MAC on 2009-08-25
Source: Dow Jones

Despite recently calling upon mining companies to conserve fresh water usage within the country, the Chilean government is now mooting its importation from Argentina.


Last year, BHP Billiton seriously considered draining water from across the Chile-Argentina border. See:

At that time the company acknowledged that it could take supplies from the sea, and then desalinate them.

However, the option was considered too costly.


Chile Seeks Argentine Water For Northern Mining Operations

Dow Jones

11 August 2009

SANTIAGO - Chile´s government is exploring the possibility of importing water from Argentina to supply local mining companies in its dry northern region.

The two neighboring South American countries have created a working group to analyze an agreement that would allow Chile to use water from Argentine rivers near the border, Chilean newspaper Diario Financiero reported Tuesday. "We have a mining agreement with Argentina, and we have also discussed the possibility of sharing water resources," Public Works Minister Sergio Bitar told the newspaper after meeting with Argentine officials last week in Buenos Aires.

The limited availability of water resources in northern Chile, where most of its mining operations are located, has posed problems for private companies such as Escondida, which is controlled and operated by diversified global miner BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), as well as state copper miner Codelco, leading the government to explore alternative water sources.

Chile is the world´s largest copper producer, accounting for about 35% of global output. The South American nation is also one of the largest producers of molybdenum, which is used to harden steel and is often found as a byproduct in copper mining operations.

The entire process for mineral processing requires water, whether it be flotation, leaching or any other kind used. Therefore, the availability and management of water is key to mining activity sustainability. The challenge is greater for mining in Chile since mining is concentrated in extremely dry areas where mining companies must compete with other production sectors that use water as well as residential and commercial demand.

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