Sep 23, 2021

BHP’s Chilean copper mine water pump ban gets 90-day delay

mining
BHP
Sustainability
ESG
2 min
Mining titan BHP is awarded a 90-day delay by a Chilean court on its water pump ban at its copper mine in Colorado as it develops a new operational plan

Locals living in the surrounding area of BHP’s Colorado copper mine were less than pleased with the environmental repercussions being caused by the company’s operations. So much so that the First Environmental Court ordered for the restart of BHP’s operations following its acquisition of operational permits. But after agreeing to an initial ban on the company’s pumping water from an aquifer, the court is now permitting a 90-day delay to the suspension to allow BHP to develop and implement a new and more sustainable operational plan. 

Chilean court rules for temporary suspension of water pump ban

While only a small project - responsible for producing only around 1.2% of Chile’s 2020 copper output - the Colorado copper mine’s impact on the surrounding area is apparent. BHP’s Cerro Colorado copper mine is causing negative side effects on the surrounding natural resources, affecting the area’s valuable environment and denting BHP’s sustainable portfolio - which, it’s important to note, it’s endeavouring to expand upon. 

August saw the court demand “precautionary measures” including the 90-day suspension of groundwater extraction from an aquifer. Now, the ruling has passed for the permitting of 54 litres per second of water to be extracted for production purposes only “for a final term of 90 calendar days”. 

BHP eager to avoid sustainability issues as it searches for operational alternatives

The court states, “Once that period has expired, if the mine does not have approval for its environmental plan, the mining company will not continue to extract water.” 

Yet the court isn’t keen to drag its feet, spurring action from the Environmental Assessment Service of Chile who gives the plans the go-ahead. It urges the assessments to be tied up as quickly as possible, eager to push for the conclusion of the issue. The trend of Chile’s copper miners being driven towards more sustainable methods of extracting and feeding water into their operations has been picking up traction as of late, with more and more copper miners steered towards sourcing in a more environmentally friendly manner. 

But according to BHP’s Cerro Colorado, the mine is “working hard to obtain the positive environmental assessment within the timeframe set by the court.” And BHP, the leading global mining powerhouse that it is, is keen to avoid any issues surrounding its sustainability at a time when the issue of climate change permeates almost every corner of the mining industry.

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