Seawater and Mining

The question remains will the mining industry develop the facilities to generate heat from its other processes or break the rules when they are allowed to desalinate and go through with their operations.

"Seawater desalination for industrial activities in Chile and Peru has a relatively low impact on energy consumption when compared to water conveyance"- the director of Hatch Water in Chile, Raymond Philippe.

Water availability is one of the most significant challenges for further development of the mining industry in Chile and Peru.

The solution to water scarcity in Chile's arid northern regions, where most of the country's mining activities are located, has been the subject of extensive analysis by companies and authorities in recent years. The lack of water is exacerbated by the deficit of power and its high costs.

Some analysts have said the two obstacles will be catastrophic for the sector's mid-term development if no measures are taken.

Meanwhile, in Peru's arid coastal region, numerous mining projects have been delayed due to opposition from nearby communities concerned about the use of water resources.

In both countries, desalination has been touted as one of the solutions to combat water scarcity. However, Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability director Paul Younger recently warned about the effect seawater desalination would have on mining companies' carbon footprint.

Desalination should not be seen as a long-term solution, he said.

"That's an interesting point of view, but I do not completely agree. First, you should recognize that any mining operation is energy consuming and therefore has an effect on the carbon footprint. Water supply is just part of the overall project's footprint," Philippe said.

Also, as new projects require extra power generation facilities, opportunities will exist to use excess heat from thermoelectric installations for water desalination, he added.

Another solution being employed at some mining operations in Chile is the use of untreated seawater in processing facilities. However, power consumption is still high as you have to transfer the water to mining operations, which are usually far from the coast and at high altitude, Philippe said.