July 25 Construction of a $3.43 billion
sea-water desalination plant at the world's largest copper mine,
Chile's Escondida, has been approved in order to secure a steady
water supply, majority owner BHP Billiton said on Thursday.
BHP Billiton , which holds a 57.5 percent
stake in the copper mine located high in the Andes mountains,
will put up $1.97 billion of the total investment.
Construction of the 2,500 liter-per-second desalination
plant will begin this month, with the plant scheduled for
commissioning in 2017.
"Securing a sustainable water supply in the Atacama Desert
is a major priority for all Chilean copper producers, so the
approval of the Escondida water supply project is a significant
milestone for our business," said BHP Billiton Copper President
The mine produced about 1.1 million tonnes of copper last
year, contributing to Chile's 5.5 million tonnes. Chile is the
world's No. 1 copper producer.
The Andean nation is seeking to improve results at its huge,
aging mines, but declining grades, soaring costs, labor unrest
and energy woes could curb its ambitious plans.
Water availability is also an issue. Traditional sources of
water, such as rivers and aquifers, are running dry, creating
headaches for mines around the world and forcing them to turn to
more expensive options, such as desalination plants and sewage