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Chilean Mining Forum Tackles Water and Energy Issues

CHILE, ANTOFAGASTA

Chile's mining sector faces obstacles due to water shortages in the northern part of the country and the high cost of energy needed to transport water to higher altitudes, according to a senior mining executive.

Peter Beaven, president of Australian mining company BHP Billiton, said Chile’s mining sector requires “more energy at lower costs.” He said that at a national level, the country’s main challenge was energy, which according to Beaven is three times more costly in Chile than in Peru or the United States.

Energy was among the issues discussed during a Center for Technological and Scientific Research in Mining (CICITEM) workshop in the city of Antofagasta on November 15.

CICITEM said it “understand with great clarity” the importance of mineral extraction to the country, and is focusing on the use of seawater in the mining process as well as development of renewable energy sources.

Back in September, the Chilean Environment Ministry’s Evaluation Service recommended approval for construction of a new desalination plant to supply drinking water in the Antofagasta region.

The $120 million USD South Desalination plant project would make Antofagasta the first city in Latin America to get 100 percent of its drinking water supply through seawater desalination.

Local environmental groups have raised concerns about the project, questioning the plant’s capacity to treat natural contaminants and mining byproducts.

The CICITEM workshop was supported by local universities, the regional government of Antofagasta and the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT), as well as experts and researchers from international institutions such as the Institute of la Grasa (Seville-Spain) and Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology. 

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