Sea-water Desalination Project Approved for Escondida
Escondida—the world’s largest copper mine—is located in the Atacama Desert 170 km southeast of the city of Antofagasta at an elevation of 3,100 m above sea level. A new, 152,000 metric tons per day (mt/d) concentrator is currently under construction that will increase water use at the mine.
Ownership at Escondida is BHP Billiton (57.5%), Rio Tinto (30%), JECO Corp. (10%), and JECO 2 Ltd. (2.5%). BHP Billiton is the operator. BHP Billiton’s share of the sea-water desalination investment will be $1.972 billion; Rio Tinto’s share will be $1.03 billion.
Construction of the new desalination facility has begun and will include development of two pipelines, four high-pressure pump stations, a reservoir at the mine site, and high-voltage infrastructure to support the system. The new facility will be commissioned in 2017.