Chile Debates Bill Making Mines Use Desalinated Seawater

Chilean lawmakers have presented a bill that would force mining companies including Anglo American Plc and BHP Billiton Plc to run all of their copper mines in Chile using desalinated water from the Pacific Ocean.

The lower chamber of deputies’ measure that was introduced last month would require mines using more than 150 liters (40 gallons) of water a second to incorporate seawater in their operations, according to a statement on the Congress website. A third of the world’s copper supply comes from Chilean mines.

Mining companies competing with communities in Chile’s famously dry Atacama Desert for diminishing freshwater reserves should process treated seawater, deputies backing the bill said. Antofagasta Plc, state-owned Codelco and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. already use desalinated water at their copper mines, according to the statement.

It’s not known when the upper house of Congress would take up the water-mining measure. There was no immediate comment today on the bill from the mining lobby Consejo Minero.

A 40 percent rise in production costs such as those that include sourcing water is threatening new project investments in copper and gold mines that exceed $100 billion, according to the Santiago-based Mining Council that represents mining companies.

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