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Building the First Large-Scale Desalination Plant for Mining in Chile’s Tarapacá Region

Building the First Large-Scale Desalination Plant for Mining in Chile’s Tarapacá Region

In Chile’s Tarapacá region, one of the driest places on earth, water scarcity is a growing challenge that can affect the well-being of the region’s communities, ecosystems, and economy. As we advance our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) project in the region, we will avoid impacting freshwater by constructing and using a desalination plant. Construction on the desalination plant, which is located between Puerto Patillos and Punta Patache, began in 2019. 

“This will be the first large scale use of desalinated seawater for mining in the region,” said Francisco Raynaud, Port Manager, QB2. “The desalination plant is one way we are meeting our commitment to reduce fresh water use in water-stressed regions, and preserving this essential resource for others.”
How the Desalination Plant Works

Seawater will be drawn into the desalination plant and purified, then pumped by five booster stations up 4,300 metres to the QB2 concentrator plant where it will be used for processing ore. 

Suction pipes used to collect seawater are almost a metre in diameter and located nearly 250 metres from land at a depth of 30 metres. The pipes are designed to ensure full compliance with coastal protection requirements. 

The concentrated saltwater from the desalination plant is discharged safely back into the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 40 metres and 750 metres from the coast to ensure adequate dilution to be compatible with the ocean’s ecosystem.

Progress on Construction
Construction on the desalination plant foundation started in August 2019 at the QB2 Port area, with approximately 1,200 workers at the port area. When operating at full capacity, the plant can purify about 1,300 litres per second. 

Learn more about our approach to protecting water quality in the Water Stewardship section of our website


First Published on March 11, 2020

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