Bechtel has been selected by BHP Billiton to provide engineering, project management, and construction services for a system that will bring a sustainable water supply to the Escondida copper mine in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The project includes construction of a seawater desalination plant at the Caleta Coloso port and the piping and electrical infrastructure needed to transport the water to the mine, 114 miles (185 kilometers) away and 10,170 feet (3,100 meters) above sea level. The mine is operated by Minera Escondida, in which BHP Billiton owns a majority stake.
“This an important project that’s quite complex given the distance between the port and the mine combined with the mine’s remote location and high altitude—not to mention the Atacama's being the world’s driest hot desert,” said José Ivo, general manager of Bechtel’s Mining & Metals business in the Americas. “We will draw on our extensive engineering, pipeline, and power experience as well as our knowledge of local geographic conditions to work with Minera Escondida to safely deliver a world-class water system.”
Bechtel will construct the seawater desalination plant. In addition, the company will undertake the engineering and construction of two 42-inch-diameter pipelines that will run between the port and the mine and the related infrastructure, which includes four high-pressure pumping stations, associated electrical substations, and 70 miles (114 kilometers) of high-voltage transmission lines along the pipeline route. Bechtel also will provide construction management services for the marine works associated with the project.
This project extends Bechtel’s long-standing practice of delivering complex projects in Latin America. The company has worked on more than 200 mining projects in the region since 1951, including the recent Los Bronces, Antapaccay, and Los Pelambres copper mines.