Diversified miner Anglo American has secured desalinated water supply for its Los Bronces copper mine, which is located in an area of Chile that has been impacted by a decade-long severe drought.
The desalinated water will supply more than 45% of Los Bronces’ needs, while also providing clean water to about 20 000 people in communities local to the operation, Anglo American base metals CEO Ruben Fernandes said on Tuesday.
The agreement, which is the first phase of a larger and longer term integrated water project to eliminate the use of fresh water at Los Bronces, is an important step towards achieving the group’s goal of reducing freshwater abstraction in water-scarce regions by 50% by 2030.
Many copper mines in the desert area of Chile have turned to seawater amid depleting freshwater reserves that have triggered an overhaul of the country's water rights system and greater protections for glaciers.
Beyond the initial phase, Anglo is also planning an innovated swap scheme to provide desalinated water for human consumption in exchange for treated wastewater that will supply the operation.
“This will allow us to stop drawing any fresh water for Los Bronces – our ultimate goal. This innovative approach not only secures industrial water supply for our Los Bronces operation to sustain copper production but also benefits local communities with the provision of clean water,” said group director of corporate relations and sustainable impact Anik Michaud.
In this first phase, Anglo will be supplied with desalinated water from a plant that is being built in the Valparaiso region by Chilean water desalination and solutions provider Aguas Pacífico. The water will be transported via pipeline to the Las Tortolas plant from where it will be pumped up to the Los Bronces mine.