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Chilean state copper giant Codelco has filed an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to carry out major upgrades at its Chuquicamata underground project in the namesake mine in northern Antofagasta region (II).
The company said in documents filed with the regional environmental evaluation service (SEA) that the modifications seek to simplify some aspects of the project originally approved in 2010 in order to optimize the mineral handling system.
As a result of that process, some facilities will be modified, or new facilities will be implemented both temporarily as well as permanently, both on the surface and underground. The modifications will also increase the consumptions of potable and industrial water, personnel, electric power, inputs and waste generation, during the construction phase.
"Given that its [original] design, construction and operation were conceived under different market conditions, it is necessary to carry out modifications to the original project, with the goal of managing the risk of losing value, maintaining the exploitation process (block caving)," the documents say.
As a result of these changes, the company now plans to mine in three underground levels instead of the original four planned. The company said that the simplification of the project will not have an impact in the production plan nor in the planned life of the mine.
The project will require US$1.4bn in investment, SEA documents show.
The underground transformation of Chuquicamata is one of Codelco's structura projects, aimed at sustaining production of about 1.7Mt by 2025.
Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, expects to receive approval in late-December.
Pictured: a tunnel part of the Chuquicamata underground project (CREDIT: Codelco)