SANTIAGO – Cochilco, Chile’s state copper commission, has released a report last Monday, announcing it will intensify copper production. In the next 10 years, production must increase by 30 percent. To do so, the use of sea water will triple during that same period.
Chile, already the world’s biggest producer of copper, wants to intensify copper production to boost its economy. State agency Cochilco projected in a release on Monday production of over 7 million tons of copper in 2025, which would be a record high.
To do so, Chile must look at new mines, as some of the copper mines of the last decades have been overexploited. The famous Chuquicamata mine will remain open, Cochilco said in the same release.
Use of sea water to triple
In order to keep exploiting copper in the dry northern regions of Chile, the use of sea water will triple in the next 10 years to support the intensification of copper extraction.
The mining sector in the north requires large amounts of water, while it is situated near the driest desert in the world. A triplication of the direct use of sea water could satisfy over 40 percent of the demands of the mining sector in the next 10 years.
Military funding by Codelco
For the three separate branches of the Chilean armed forces, the intensification of copper extraction in Chile would´ve been good news, weren´t it for a recently approved law, that seeks to replace the 1958 Ley Reservada.
According to that law, 10 percent of all export sales go to separate bank accounts of the navy, the army and the air force, while the armed forces also nominate board members.
As the armed forces this way receive a minimum of US$ 180 million a year, they have been able to develop into one of the most advanced military forces in South America. But for Codelco, the annual contribution weighs on the recently released investment plan.
As the law also limits Codelco from starting new projects in neighboring countries – these countries don’t want to contribute to the Chilean armed forces – the government now seeks to change the law.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.