Desalination plant components at the Escondida copper mine in northern Chile. Black & Veatch handled EPCM duties at both phases of desalination system expansion at the mine and was recently chosen to perform a similar function at the Manyar copper smelter project in Indonesia.

PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) has appointed engineering firm Black & Veatch to design and manage the delivery of a seawater desalination plant for its Manyar smelter in East Java, Indonesia, as part of its sustainable development commitments. The seawater desalination plant will support the processing of concentrates from the Grasberg mine in West Papua. 

Black & Veatch, in collaboration with its joint operating agreement (JOA) partner PT Wika, will handle the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning responsibilities for the seawater desalination plant.

The plant will be located adjacent to the Manyar smelter project. It will produce more than 1,400 m3/h of desalinated seawater to support the copper smelter and precious metals refinery. Designed to process 1.7 million metric tons per year (mt/y) of copper concentrate, the $3-billion smelter is anticipated to be the world’s largest designed single line copper processing facility.

US-based Black & Veatch had previously served as designer and engineer of record on BHP’s Escondida Water Supply Expansion project, which now supplies the world’s largest copper mine with desalinated water. According to BHP, the expansion increased the mine’s desalination capacity to the point where 100% of its needs can be self-supplied with desalinated water, helping to protect local groundwater resources. 

The firm also served in a similar capacity for Escondida’s original water supply project, regarded as one of the largest, most complex desalination infrastructure projects in South America. In 2013, it was selected to lead the engineering design, procurement, field inspection and pre-commissioning for the marine and desalination elements of the EWS project, which was completed in 2017.

When it came time to expand the Escondida desalination facilities, BHP again hired the global engineering company to serve as engineer of record for the water production,
water conveyance and high-voltage components of the project, providing engineering, procurement, construction management services, pre-commissioning and commissioning services.

The EWSE project involved multiple components to increase desalinated water production capacity by 833 liters per second (l/s) while expanding water conveyance capacity by 1,438 l/s. The project began in June 2017 and was commissioned in late 2019. 

The original EWS infrastructure was developed with expansion in mind, said Black & Veatch, noting that its original design allowed BHP to adopt an optimized solution that used the existing EWS footprint to help lower capital costs. Replicating equipment used in the EWS project also helped standardize and simplify operations and maintenance.