Chile’s Parched Mines Race for an Increasingly Scarce Commodity: Water

Environmental News from America: 

The record-breaking drought in Chile is impacting mining operations and forcing companies to escalate their search for more sources of water, from water treatment and pricey desalination plants to even encouraging workers to use less water in the shower.

The Andean nation, the world’s no. 1 copper producer and the no. 2 producer of battery metal lithium, is battling a historic drought that is now entering its 13th year. That has led the capital Santiago to roll out unprecedented plans to ration water for residents.

Mines are also feeling the effects.

Anglo American’s (AAL.L) flagship Los Bronces mine in central Chile saw production fall 17% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2022, partly due to water scarcity, the firm said in April. Antofagasta Minerals (ANTO.L) said drought led to a 24% first-quarter drop in production at its Los Pelambres mine.

Tensions over water use have been building over the years for Chile’s miners, who need it for pumping minerals like lithium to the surface, copper smelting, and in the concentrator, which breaks down raw ore and processes it into usable material.

Traditionally, they have relied on continental waters – land-based water from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

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Source: Reuters

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