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Project Spotlight – Teck Quebrada Blanca Phase 2

The Quebrada Blanca mine is located in Tarapacá Region of northern Chile at an elevation of 4,400 metres, approximately 240 kilometres southeast of the city of Iquique and 1,500 kilometres from Santiago.

Quebrada Blanca is an open pit operation, which leaches the ore to produce copper cathodes via processing in an SX-EW plant. Copper cathode is trucked to Iquique for shipment to purchasers. Quebrada Blanca produced 25,500 tonnes of copper cathode in 2018, compared to 23,400 tonnes in 2017. Production of approximately 20,000 to 23,000 tonnes of copper cathode is expected in 2019.

Quebrada Blanca produced 25,500 tonnes of copper cathode in 2018, compared to 23,400 tonnes in 2017. We expect production of approximately 20,000 to 23,000 tonnes of copper cathode in 2019.

Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 is a development project that aims to significantly increase the production of Quebrada Blanca copper and extend its productive life in more than 30 years.

The project considers the construction of a concentrator plant near the mine; a tailings deposit; a pipeline for the transport of the copper concentrate; a seawater supplying plant -the one that will be sent by an aqueduct to the concentrator; and facilities for the reception, filtering and loading of the concentrate in the sector of Patache Norte, south of Iquique.

  • The new copper concentrator plant will have a capacity of 140,000t/d. The project includes the construction of a port located 50km from Iquique.
  • The port will have a capacity of 60,000t, a conveyor belt, a storage building, and a filter plant. A particular fact is that all the water from the filtrating process will be fully returned, without having any loss.
  • The new tailings deposit will have a capacity of 1.2Mt and will have a total area of 796 hectares.
  • QB2 will have a desalination plant with a capacity of approximately 1,000l/s.
  • In terms of sustainability, the mine will operate with 100% desalinated water. The water will be pumped to a height of 4,400m.
  • The brine captured from the water will be discharged into the ocean to a depth of 40m below the sea level and 730m from the shore to avoid environmental damage.
  • The aqueduct to transport the water to the concentrator plant will span 160km and the pipeline will be 36 inches in diameter.

According to preliminary studies, the project would achieve a production capacity of approximately 240,000 tons of copper in concentrate and 6,000 tons of molybdenum in concentrate per year.

On May 30, Teck also announced the signing of US$2.5 billion in project finance loans to fund the development of the QB2 project. The loans will be provided by banks from Japan, Korea, Canada, and France. The project was given the green light by the environmental evaluation service in August 2018 and was approved by the board in December.

“In the 35 years of operations, we’ve exploited the sulfide ore. Currently the open pit is 400m deep and we’re going to 720m. We need a different process to go to greater depth. And this is the reason for the size of the investment,” said Enrique Castro, CEO of Quebrada Blanca, at the recent Exponor event in Chile’s Antofagasta region.

Early Works

In September 2018, early works commenced at the site, which included earthworks with blasting activities. This blasting is being carried out for the construction of the industrial buildings that will house the various facilities at Puerto Patache, such as the desalination plant, the filter plant, and the desalinated water pumping station. The blasting began in April and will continue until September 2019.

The construction contractor is Bechtel, which is working on the concentrator plant, with EPCM, Ausenco and PSI working on the piping and pumping stations; Ausenco and Sandwell on the port and desalination plant facilities, and Golder on tailings management.

Phase 3 and Innovations

Teck Resources is working on engineering studies to double forecasted production by 2026 in phase 3.

The company forecasts that if Quebrada Blanca gets to a third phase, annual production will surpass 600,000t, reported local newspaper El Mercurio, citing CEO Donald Lindsay, making it the second largest copper mine in Chile after Minera Escondida.

“We have reserves for 100 years and currently we’re only using 25% of these reserves. This year we’ll be developing the scoping study, although the construction process [of QB2] is taking up most of our time,” said Castro.

Castro told BNamericas that the company was soon going to make information public on new technologies it will use in QB2. “We’re reviewing the possibility of working with autonomous trucks and have a remote control room that controls our entire operation for security reasons. Now we’re working on those definitions,” he said.

Harris Gomez Group is a Common Law firm, with offices in Santiago, Bogotá, and Sydney. Over the last 18 years, we have been supporting foreign companies with their growth in Latin America. Many of our clients are technology companies, service providers and engineering companies that focus on the mining, energy and infrastructure markets. 

To better understand how we can support your management team in the Region, please contact Cody Mcfarlane at cmm@hgomezgroup.com