South American Mines Pump Seawater As Rivers Dry Up

A Planet Ark/Reuters correspondent has a story out of Cerro Lindo, Peru about how the town's spanking new mine and another mine in Chile are now pumping seawater high up into the Andes because of a shortage of locally available water. The Cerro Lindo mine and the Esperanza gold and copper mine in Chile's Atacama Desert have traditionally relied on rivers fed by glaciers, which are rapidly melting with climate change.

The average mine requires millions of gallons of water during its 40 years of operation, which means access is an increasingly worrisome issue for mine owners as global warming looms and cities that share water resources with the mines grow.

And the South American miners aren't the only ones willing to haul their water from far, far away when local resources begin to fade. In other parts of Latin America like Mexico City, water is pumped up and over mountains to serve sprawling urban populations. This energy-intensive and expensive process is a prime example of the extreme engineering efforts we are likely to see down the road as our water resources diminish.
In the case of the mines, the shared reliance on rivers between farmers, miners and urban dwellers has begun to create tension and strain in relations.

"Water always generates conflicts between mines and farmers, so this is a good alternative because the source is limitless," German Arce, who runs the Cerro Lindo mine, told Planet Ark. The ocean water will be free, except for transportation and treatment. We'd like to see the mines talk more about water conservation, but that doesn't seem to be a central part of the dialog just yet.:: Via Planet Ark

Tags: Agriculture | Chile | Peru

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