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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: July 19th 2019


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:: Chile’s Spence set to Reprocess Leached Material


Multinational mining company BHP has submitted an environmental impact study to Chilean environmental authorities for a project to update the Spence mine's management of leached material.

The US$160mn-project includes the construction of a new deposit for leached material at the mine in Antofagasta region, reprocessing of that material and a new transport system to remove them from the leach heaps.

The project will have a lifespan of four years from the estimated start in 2022 to completion at the end of 2025, when the leaching facilities will stop operating. The company expects construction to begin in 2H20.


The maximum capacity of the old deposit is close to being reached, so the company needs to build a new one. The new 80Mt-capacity facility will be located adjacent to the old one and will cover an area of 340ha.

In order to move the leached material, the company intends to build a conveyor belt from the old deposit to the new one, with a new crossing platform and a low tunnel to protect the overland conveyor belt.

The deposit of leached material will operate in a similar way to the current one, with the loading system continuing to use bucket-wheel excavators and belts, so it will require the authorization of a new mobile electric room that will move along with the deposition equipment.


Minera Spence also wants to reprocess the leached material that is in the current deposit. It will be transported from the deposit to a leaching facility (crusher-agglomerator), before being later dumped in the new deposit after reprocessing.

Reprocessing will be divided into two phases, according to the EIS submitted to the environmental authority.

The first phase involves transporting the leached material from the deposit to the primary crusher at a rate of 2.3Mt/y, along with the mineral from the mine and the existing stockpiled low-grade ore.

The second phase involves implementing a conveyor belt and chute system to transport the material from the deposit to the existing agglomerator. The annual reprocessing capacity will be 9.3Mt/y, which will include the mineral from the mine and existing low-grade ore stockpiles.




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