The scarcity of water in northern Chile, and its importance to many of Chile’s economic activities, makes this one of the key issues for the mining industry and the country as a whole. In 2009, our Lomas Bayas operation in Chile established a target of reducing water consumption by 5% in 2013. By 2012, Lomas Bayas had achieved a reduction of 8.1% compared to its 2009 performance.
The initiatives that achieved this reduction focused principally on reducing evaporation losses in the large irrigation areas of leach pads and in open-tank ponds (in 2009, these losses accounted for 40% of our total freshwater consumption). We implemented a number of research projects that served as the basis for the development of a project called CORFOINNOVA.
The project brought together 2 local universities and a research organisation to work with us investigating evaporation mitigation measures. It investigated technological alternatives for mitigating evaporation from exposed solution surfaces and humid surfaces in mining processes. These included replacing sprinkler irrigation with drip irrigation in the heap leach pad, mechanisms for covering ponds with plastic and, in areas with drip irrigation, replacing impermeable plastic with a buried system.
The closed recycling system at Lomas Bayas means no liquid waste is generated. Waste water is treated for reuse in different processes and used as the principal source of water for dust abatement on roads. In addition, water from the solvent extraction plant is recycled and sewage is treated and reused.