BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, urged Chile to find ways to increase electricity supply as the mining industry embarks on record investments to expand production.
While BHP has enough power for its Chilean operations until 2015 and can supply the initial expansion of its Escondida copper mine, the company is looking to secure more supplies after that, the company’s base metals president Peter Beaven told reporters in Santiago today.
“If we don’t have any power we don’t have any operations,” Beaven said. “This is a country-wide issue that needs to be resolved.”
The government of President Sebastian Pinera, who last week swore in his fifth energy minister in two years, needs to double power supply in the next decade to match demand growth as mining companies plan investments totaling $91 billion. BHP will spend $4.5 billion to expand Escondida, the largest copper mine.
BHP may consider developing a power project it has the rights to build near Mejillones in northern Chile as a way of boosting supplies in the Atacama Desert, Beaven said. Boosting liquefied natural gas imports may also help Chile overcome energy shortages, he said.
The South American country also needs to train between 50,000 and 60,000 people to work in the mining industry, he said.
The Melbourne-based company, which owns 57.5 percent of Escondida, will use desalinated ocean water to run the mine and plant, Beaven said. Rio Tinto Plc owns 30 percent of Escondida, with the balance held by Japan’s JECO Corp. and JECO 2 Ltd.