Anglo American (LON: AAL) submitted an environmental impact declaration before Chile’s Environmental Assessment Service (SEA), which is aimed at accelerating the tailings removal process from the Pérez Caldera Dam at its Los Bronces mine; adapting the operation’s water supply so that it functions with desalinated water; and repowering the recovered water system.
In a statement sent to local media, Anglo American said that the $1.1-billion plan will pay special attention to repulping or moving mineral pulp or tailings from the Pérez Caldera dam to the Las Tórtolas tailings dam. The entire project is expected to last for 10 years, from construction to the moment all tailings have been transferred.
The declaration also presented an optimization plan of the ongoing workings to advance the company’s plan to reduce its freshwater usage by 50% by 2030.
In the first phase of the project, the company will use 500 litres per second of desalinated water to cover 45% of its operations. In the second phase, Anglo plans to use treated wastewater in exchange for supplying desalinated water for human consumption.
The current proposal also involves repowering the operation’s Recovered Water System (SAR), to increase the flow of recycled water at Los Bronces from 1,000 to 1,200 litres per second. This would secure the mine’s water supply and optimize the repulping of the Pérez Caldera tailings dam.
According to the Anglo American, the recycled water initiative should help compensate for the lower water supply from the Maipo and Aconcagua basins, which has worsened in the past few years due to acute water scarcity in Chile’s central region.
This lack of water supply prompted the miner to tighten its production forecast to 505,000 tonnes by the end of 2023, which is 15,000 tonnes below previous expectations, as well as its production guidance for 2024, which was set at 430,000-460,000 tonnes, and for 2025, which ranges between 380,000-410,000 tonnes of copper.
The company has said, however, that lower production would be reversed if the Los Bronces Integrated Project (LBIP) goes ahead, as it would allow it to tap higher-grade ores from a new underground section of the mine, extending its life through 2036.
The LBIP received approval from the Committee of Ministers in April but its environmental resolution is still being processed.