SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Copper miners in Chile, the world's top producer, are forecast to satisfy half their water needs using ocean water by 2026, a government-sponsored study showed on Tuesday.
Strained fresh water resources in Chile's arid north, where most of the Andean nation's copper mines are concentrated, and projections for decreased precipitation due to the effects of climate change have prompted mining companies to increasingly turn to ocean water to supply their operations.
Chile's state copper commission, Cochilco, said in a report that seawater consumption is expected to reach 10.7 cubic meters per second in 2026 - 4.3 times more than the expected amount for this year - "due to the use of seawater in new projects and expansions of existing plants."
Meanwhile, fresh water consumption by copper producers will total 10.8 cubic meters per second in 2026, some 19 percent less than the forecast usage this year, Cochilco added.
"It is important that seawater be used more in production processes, and to that end miners are increasingly building their own desalination plants to address fresh water shortages to the extent that this is both technically and economically feasible," Mining Minister Aurora Williams said.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Andrea Ricci)