Seawater use in the world’s No. 1 copper mining nation will increase 66% by 2025, reported Chile’s copper commission, following droughts in Atacama, one of the world’s driest deserts, where much of the copper ore is produced.
Desalination plants are forecast to generate one-third of water in the next decade, up from 9%, in the Andean region, according to Jorge Cantallopts, a Cochilco researcher. Chile, representing 30% of global output, also faces falling grades and high energy costs amid a growing ore glut.
By 2025, water use will average 24.6 cubic meters per second, the study noted, as new project development accounts for 75% of total usage. Chile’s copper sector is led by state-run Codelco, the world’s biggest producer, along with top miners BHP Billiton, Glencore, Anglo American and Antofagasta.