Los Pelambres submits EIA for US$16mn tailings dams closure

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chilean miner Minera Los Pelambres has submitted an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to the environment ministry (MMA) for a US$16mn project involving early development works for the closure of its Los Quillayes and El Chinche tailings dams.

Los Pelambres, 60%-controlled by Antofagasta Minerals, owns and operates a copper mine of the same name in northern region IV and, as part of an expansion project costing US$1bn, it built a new tailings dam called El Mauro to replace the old dams that have reached full capacity.

The expansion project has been running at full capacity since Q2, increasing processing capacity by 25% to 175,000t/d and expanding production by close to 90,000t/y of fine copper.

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Closure of the Los Quiyalles and El Chinche tailings dams is part of the voluntary agreements signed by the company with local authorities and was included in the environmental evaluation of previous projects at the copper operation.

El Chinche started operations together with Los Pelambres in 1992 and its useful life ended in 1998. Quiyalles has been progressively stopping operations since 2008, when the El Mauro tailings dam kicked off.

The project submitted for evaluation involves the mining of 2.36Mm3 of aggregates from quarries surrounding the mining operation, which will be used to cover the tailings to avoid the emission of particulate matter or the generation of gullies due to rainfall, according to the EIA.

Works are expected to kick off next January and take 15 years to complete.

The remainder of Los Pelambres is owned by Japan's Nippon Mining, which has a 25% stake, and Mitsubishi with a 15% stake.

Antofagasta Minerals is controlled by London-based Antofagasta plc (LSE: ANTO), which in turn is controlled by Chile's Luksic group.