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4 Jun 2021

Cecilia Jamasmie, Mining.com

Chile: BHP to pay $93m for environmental harm at Escondida

"BHP to pay $93m for environmental harm at Escondida," 4 June 2021

BHP, the majority owner and operator of Escondida copper mine in Chile, will have to spend up to $93 million as part of an environmental plan drawn up to resolve a lawsuit from the state over water use and related damage to a sensitive area in the country’s north.

The case goes back to April last year, when the Chilean State sued BHP over alleged “irreparable damage” to the Punta Negra salt flat, in the northern Antofagasta region. The bone of contention was the mine’s now-abandoned practice of drawing water from the salt flat. The area is one of the many natural resources that has been depleted after decades of mining activity in and around the Atacama desert, the driest place on Earth, and nearby salt pan...

The country’s environmental watchdog (SMA) ruled against BHP in July 2020. It concluded Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine, had caused a decrease in the water table levels greater than 25 cm. That is the allowed limit in the Atacama desert, the world’s driest, where the mine is located...

The First Environmental Court’s resolution, published in local media this week, rubber-stamped what it described as an “unprecedented” agreement that included a total of 19 measures BHP must take.

These actions are expected to cost the miner a minimum of $81 million and up to $93 million in technical studies of the salt flat and a management plan to repair damage...