Peruvian mine desalination ‘viable’ says Southern Copper

The construction of a desalination plant for Southern Copper’s US$ 1 billion Tia Maria copper mine, in the Islay province of Arequipa in Peru, is “a viable option”, according to the company’s executive president Oscar Gonzales, quoted by Reuters on 24 May 2010.

Peruvian mines and energy minister Pedro Sanchez had told Reuters earlier in May that the company must build a desalination plant if it wants to go ahead with the project.

The second public hearing on the project scheduled for 19 April 2010 was cancelled due to social unrest in Islay province, where the Pan American highway was disrupted by a large group of people opposing the development of any mining activity in the region. One of their fears is that the project could dry out rivers in the area needed for irrigation.

To obtain the necessary water supply for the project, the company had offered to build the Paltiture dam with an increased capacity of 40 million m³ of water that currently drains to the Pacific Ocean. The company said it would only use 7 million m³/ year from the dam, the remaining additional 33 million m³ will be available for the benefit of the agriculture communities and the Islay population.