Chilean Mining Minister Seeks to Reassure Miners on Water – by Alistair MacDonald (Wall Street Journal – March 1, 2015)

The Chilean government is seeking to reassure mining companies that it has no intention of forcing miners to run their mines using a desalinated water supply, the country’s minister of mining said, in news that may come as a relief to a mining industry that has seen increased demands on it in developing markets.

In recent decades, Chile has built a reputation as being the most mining-friendly jurisdiction among developing economies. Lately, however, some miners and sector bankers say that while still a benchmark in the developing world, Chile isn’t as friendly a jurisdiction as it once was.

Aurora Williams said that while there has been some demands for miners to use desalinized water, in which seawater is stripped of its salt, her government doesn’t plan to force miners to use this water.

“This is not something that is being considered” by the government, she said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Some miners, though, may have to use desalinized water, given the nature of Chile’s geography as a thin country bordering the sea. “It is what nature demands,” Ms. Williams said. Ms. Williams was speaking at the opening of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s annual conference in Toronto.

Chile has caused some grief for the world’s largest gold miner, Barrick Gold Corp. The Canadian miner suspended work on the Chilean side of its massive Pascua-Lama project, straddling the border between Chile and Argentina, in 2013 after a court halted construction over complaints by aboriginal communities about breaches of environmental standards. Barrick later put the entire project on hold.

Chile’s Environmental Superintendency, meanwhile, has fined the Canadian company over “serious violations” of environmental-protection standards.

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