Chilean mining firm strikes desalination deal with water protesters

Chilean copper mining company, Antofagasta, has struck a deal with demonstrators from the town of Salamanca in the Choapa River Valley who had been blocking access to its Los Pelambres mine in Chile, in protest against the mine’s consumption of water amid severe water scarcity in the region.

Los Pelambres mine, the regional government, local politicians, the mayor of Salamanca and the community of the Choapa Valley have agreed to collaborate in confronting water scarcity. Local communities had blamed the mine for water shortages and called for a desalination plant to be built.

The agreement includes seeking a public private partnership to develop a desalination plant and a commitment to using seawater should a planned expansion of the project go ahead.
Analysts at Nomura have estimated that such a plant and linked pipeline could add significantly to the mine’s costs with some US$ 1.5 billion need to serve the expansion alone.

The intensity of long running disputes between mines and local communities over scarce water supplies have stepped up in recent months as an eight-year long drought in the country has grown worse.