Chile May Make Miners Use Desalinated Water

Chuquicamata_copper_mine_chile (1)

Chuquicamata copper mine, by Owen Cliffe

With communities in Chile’s Atacama Desert — one of the world’s driest — competing with copper mines for dwindling water supplies, some of the country’s lawmakers have submitted a bill that would force mining companies to use desalinated Pacific Ocean water, according to reports in Bloomberg and Mining.com.

A statement from Chile’s Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the National Congress, calls for mining companies that use 150 liters (40 gallons) of water per second to begin using desalinated water in order to preserve freshwater for other uses.  Some mining companies already use desalinated water, others don’t. There is no word yet on when the upper house, the Senate, will address the legislation.

One third of the world’s copper supplies comes from Chile, and one third of the Chilean government’s revenue comes from copper exports — making mining one of the country’s most important industries as well as one of its biggest users of water. According to a report in BNamericas, the industry’s need for water is expected to increase by 38 % by 2021.

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Filed under Desalination, Industry, Law, Oceans, South America, Water Shortage

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