Billiton clears finance for 216,000 m³/d Chile desalination

An investment of US$ 1,972 million was approved by mining giant BHP Billiton on 25 July 2013 for its 216,000 m³/d seawater desalination plant in Escondida, Chile.

The project will ensure continued water supply to the Escondida copper mine, as water use increases upon completion of a 152,000 t/d OGP1 copper concentrator.

Construction of the new desalination facility will commence in July 2013 and will include the development of two pipelines, four high-pressure pump stations, a reservoir at the mine site and high voltage infrastructure to support the system.

Escondida is located 3,100 m above sea level, 170km south-east of Antofagasta. The new facility will be commissioned in 2017.

BHP Billiton Copper President, Peter Beaven, said: “Securing a sustainable water supply in the Atacama Desert is a major priority for all Chilean copper producers, so the approval of the Escondida Water Supply project is a significant milestone for our business. The new desalination facility will minimise our reliance on the region’s aquifers, which will help us to meet our environmental commitments and enable us to achieve our long-term business strategy.”