After almost two years of work and a $131 million investment, Antofagasta plc’s open-pit copper mine Minera Centinela began operating 100% with seawater starting December 31, 2022. The mine will no longer withdraw water from the aquifer, which amounted to 8% of the total water used by the mine.

“Centinela has been characterized since it started by its commitment to the environment and sustainability, and the trend continues with actions like this, which reflect modern, responsible mining methods,” said Carlos Espinoza, general manager, Minera Centinela. “We are caring for water resources at the driest place on Earth.”

Minera Centinela pioneered the use of thickened tailings, a technology that allows more efficient use of water. In addition, its operation includes a solar thermal plant to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Since January 2022, it has operated with electricity from 100% renewable sources. In 2021, it obtained the Copper Mark certification, which recognizes copper production in accordance with the U.N. Sustainable Development goals.

In related news, Antofagasta Minerals reported that access to its Los Pelambres operation in Chile’s Coquimbo Region was blocked by a small group of people, who are requesting compensation to clear access without connection to any specific incident or situation. The blockade has affected the transport of critical supplies and personnel to the mine site.

The company reported no material impact on production although work on mine development has been reduced over the period. Authorities are working to clear the blockade and the company is engaging with them and representatives of the local communities to jointly resolve the situation.