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ACCIONA Agua will build and operate a desalination plant in Chile’s Atacama Desert

05/09/2011

ACCIONA has won a contract from the CAP group to build and operate for 20 years a plant for the group's mining operations in the Copiapo Valley (Atacama Region III).

The plant will have an initial capacity of 200 liters per second (17 million liters a day) which could be stepped up to a maximum 600 l/s (52 million liters/day).

ACCIONA has won a contract from the CAP group to build and operate for 20 years a plant for the group's mining operations in the Copiapo Valley (Atacama Region III).    

The plant will have an initial capacity of 200 liters per second (17 million liters a day) which could be stepped up to a maximum 600 l/s (52 million liters/day).

ACCIONA Agua has been selected by Grupo CAP to design, build, bring into service and operate for 20 years a seawater desalination plant in the Copiapó Valley in Chile's Atacama Region III.  The project represents an investment of US$63.5 million (around 45 million euros) and the plant will have an initial capacity of 200 liters/second (17 million liters/day) which could be increased to a maximum 600 l/sec (52 million l/day). The project is slated for completion in early 2013.

The desalination plant will be built near the Port of Punto Totoralillo, one of several owned by CAP Minería in Atacama. It will be located 25km north of the city of Caldera, 82km from the mining operations in Cerro Negro Norte and 120km from the group's Planta Magnetita operations, in the area known as Tierra Amarilla (literally "Yellow Earth"). The project responds to the need to ensure the water requirements of the region's mining operations. The new plant will use reverse osmosis technology and will be subject to the toughest environmental and quality standards.

The arrival of the new desal plant will help considerably to solve the area's water problems: the Atacama Desert, while rich in mineral resources, is considered the most arid region on the planet. The desert is in the north of Chile and south of Peru, between the Rivers Loa and Copiapó, in the Antofagasta region and the north of the Atacama region. It is framed by the Andes mountain range and the coast, and extends for roughly 105,000 square kilometers.

Copiapó has a long history of mining. Its climate also makes it an attractive agricultural area, and each year it gives the Chile's first fruit harvest. In the 1980s and 90s both activities were stepped up giving rise to near-total depletion of the area's water resources. The valley has more than 60 mining operations and they are the main driver of the local economy, accounting for nearly 50% of the region's GDP.

The desalination plant project consolidates ACCIONA Agua's presence in Chile and enables the company to extend its activity in water treatment for mining operations.

ACCIONA's water services arm has a long list of major contracts under its belt in Latin America, including the Atotonilco wastewater treatment plant (WTP) which will be the largest of its kind in the world. Built in Valle de Mexico, where Mexico City is located, this plant will treat the wastewater of 10,500,000 inhabitants. The investment comes to nearly 500 million euros and the O&M service will run for 25 years. Other high-profile projects in the Americas include the Peravia drinking water plant and multiple aqueducts, in the Dominican Republic, and the technical assistance and maintenance of the Arrudas (Brazil) water treatment plant.

A leading presence

Chile has always stood out as one of Latin America's most stable business environments. ACCIONA singled out Chile as one of its strategic markets and the Company is committed to a long-term presence. This commitment is especially relevant given the current situation of infrastructure investment. ACCIONA's position as a global leader in renewable energies can also bear fruit in Chile where renewables are growing apace.

ACCIONA's presence in Chile goes back to 1993 when the Company's infrastructure arm opened offices in the country, followed later by ACCIONA Energy and ACCIONA Agua. Today, ACCIONA has 163 employees in Chile.

ACCIONA has built 4 wastewater treatment plants in Valdivia (total capacity: 25,000 m3/ day), Osorno (total capacity: 40,000 m3/day), La Ligua (total capacity: 5,000 m3/ day) and Temuco (total capacity: 158,000 m3/day).

The water division is also looking into a range of opportunities for providing desalination stations for the mining industry which is one of the country's most important sectors and makes up the backbone of the Chilean economy.

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