Energy & Climate Change

New sources for water resources for small and medium-sized mining

Its objective is the development of a center of production, storage and transportation of medium salinity water, using renewable energies.

Specific Objectives

Technical-economic evaluation of the location of the distribution and logistics center associated with small and medium-sized mining.

Development of the conceptual engineering of a production system of semi-salty water, transportation, storage and distribution, using renewable energy equipments for the Atacama Region.

The project seeks to resolve the issue of water scarcity faced by small and medium-sized mining of the Atacama Region, in order to develop normally its current and future activities. Due to the water resource of the area is scarce, expensive and often little or no availability, the creation of business models that allow providing new sources of water for this latent demand can be transformed into a high impact contribution for the growth of this productive sector and for the region’s growth. In this context, Fundación Chile presents an innovative business model, that is, to create a center for the production, storage and distribution of medium salinity water, which will supply water to the small and medium-sized mining, and to potentially create a bioenergy industry that will be developed around this resource.

This business model includes:

  • The use of renewable energy sources to generate semi-salty water.
  • The creation of a center for the production, storage and distribution of semi-salty water, which will supply water to small and medium-sized mining, especially for the concentration of copper sulphides and for energy plantations.
  • The use of renewable energy sources for the transportation of water to the point of use.

The engineering of this project is framed within a context of energy efficiency, as it considers the use of renewable energy sources for the transportation and for the semi-desalination. This is a relevant aspect of the project, because the transportation must be made in a desert area of difficult access. This area is appropiate for the use of renewable energy sources with almost no maintenance and without the use of other inputs. This includes a very important aspect for the sustainability of the small and medium-sized mining, as it is the availability of water, that allows:

  • To project processes for the production of products with higher added value, such as concentrates or those generated with hydrometallurgical treatments (precipitates, salts, cathodes).
  • To avoid the closure of extractive operations, which law does not allow to access to the purchasing markets, due to ENAMI requires a minimum law.

The project will be develop in the Atacama region. This are is ideal for this type of project, due to its water scarcity and becaue this region has the greatest number of mining over the whole country, with a total of 202 minings and 50 active plants. 97% of the mining are SMEs and 88% are active plants.

The social impact associated with the project is considerably high and positive, as a result of the activation of mining projects which are not functioning, because they do not have the necessary water resources to active them. The activation of SMEs mining operations in the area has been estimated at about 18, resulting in:

  • The increase of the copper production at around 21 thousand MT of fine copper.
  • The increase of the direct workforce by over 500 persons.
  • The revaluation of mining projects and companies.
  • The revaluation of fields.

All this will have a direct impact on the economy of the region, which wil result in the short term in a substantial improvement in the quality of life of families.

Furthermore, the secondary benefits of the project (such as the development of energy crops for the biogas and biodiesel generation), will allow to generate clean and renewable energy, which will displace part of the existing fossil fuels use in the region. So on the one hand, the biogas will be transformed into electricity and injected into the Central Interconnected System (SIC), and on the other hand, the biodiesel will be used in fleets of heavy trucks within the mining operations or will be used in public transport, reducing the pollution within the mining or in the cities where it is being used.

The expected projections and benefits are:

  1. The transportation of semi-salty seawater to extract water from the shoreline of the Chañaral area and make a partial desalination process and then to transport the water to storage centers.
  2. To provide water to the SMEs mining: To provide water to the plants and SMEs mining in areas near to the storage and distribution center.
  3. Job generation: The activation of inactive mining operations generates an important demand of workforce.
  4. The increase of the copper production at around 21 thousand MT of fine copper.
  5. The increase of the direct workforce by over 500 persons.
  6. The revaluation of mining projects and companies.
  7. The revaluation of fields.

 

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