New bill aims to force mining companies to use desalination

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chilean lawmakers have introduced a draft bill that aims to force mining companies to use desalinated seawater for their industrial operations, according to a press release from the lower house.

The bill aims to ensure that water resources are mainly used for human consumption and agricultural purposes, said lawmaker Adriana Muñoz of opposition party PPD, who represents the 9th district of central-northern region IV.

Intensive water use in mining operations is one of the factors that has led to severe water scarcity in the country's north, according to Muñoz.

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"The big mining facilities are located in the north of the country, a region where it's already difficult to obtain water, which conflicts with the use of water for human consumption and small-scale agriculture," Muñoz said.

By 2020, copper production alone is projected to require an additional 167Mm3 of water from current consumption levels, further aggravating the region's water shortage, the legislator added.

Around 84% of water in Chile is used for agriculture. Direct human consumption accounts for 4.4% of all water used, while mining uses 4.5% and other industries 6.5%.