Chilean Mine Utilises New Desalination Plant

After an investment of $100 million (£63.7 million), Chile is now the proud owner of the Mantoverde desalination plant – the first of its kind in the country.

The desalination plant works by sourcing seawater in its catchment tower 300m from the seashore. It then begins a process to filter and purify the water, removing impurities such as salt and excess residue so that the water can then be used by the Mantoverde mining operation, which includes an open pit mine, crushing plants and facilities for processing oxide ores. This prevents the mine from using freshwater sourced from the nearby River Copiapó, which is the main water supply for residents in the local Atacama region.

The plant at Mantoverde consumes up to 30% less energy than equivalent plants around the world, and controls all emissions produced through its purification processes – preventing any further negative impacts on the environment. Elements are disposed of in the most natural way possible, such as returning the salt that is extracted from the seawater back to be dispersed into the sea.

All those involved with the stages that have lead to the plants existence emphasise that the solid relationships and open dialogue with local communities was vital to the success of the project. When discussing this success, the plant’s project manager John Norrish was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “The success of this project consisted not only in delivering a world class desalination facility. It was also based on our focus on safety, meeting environmental commitments, and building sustainable relationships with the authorities, local communities and fishermen through formal dialogue and open engagement processes.”

The process of mining and the industry as a whole regularly comes under fire for the negative impact and strain that their businesses causes on the local environment, including an impact on water quality. The completion of the Mantoverde desalination plant in Chile is a fundamental step to show how working with  local communities can help mining companies to effectively manage their water, and maintain the harmony of the local ecosystem.

Aquaread manufactures scientific water monitoring equipment designed for use in the field. Some of our customers use the equipment to monitor the impact of industry on the environment.