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Marubeni begins construction of desalination and water transmission project for CODELCO

  • Marubeni begins construction of desalination and water transmission project for CODELCO
    At the time of a long-term water sales agreement signing on July 26,2022. Credit: Marubeni

About the entity

Marubeni Corporation is a general trading company headquartered in Nihonbashi, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan. It is the fifth-largest sogo shosha and has leading market shares in cereal and paper pulp trading as well as a strong electrical and industrial plants

Marubeni, through a special purpose company it invested in together with Transelec, a major power transmission company in the Republic of Chile, has launched a desalination and water transmission business for Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (CODELCO). Marubeni concluded a long-term water sales agreement related to this project in July 2022 and a loan agreement with lending banks on March 8, 2023. Construction on the project then started on March 27, 2023.

The project will consist of the construction of a desalination plant in Tocopilla City in the coastal area of Northern Chile. This will encompass a high-pressure water supply pipeline; a pumping station to transport water from the coast to a copper mine area located approximately 160 km inland at an altitude of about 3,000 m; a large water reservoir; a water distribution pipeline for each mine; and an overhead power transmission line and substation. Techint Chile S.A as EPC contractor will be in charge of the construction. The plant will be operated for 20 years after completion. It is set to supply water to the three following major mines in the northern part of the country: Radomiro Tomic, Chuquicamata, and Ministro Hales, which together account for about half of CODELCO’s copper production. This is Marubeni’s first large-scale seawater desalination and water transmission project using a reverse osmosis membrane*2 system in Chile, as well as the first large-scale shared water infrastructure project in the country to efficiently deliver seawater desalination to multiple large-scale mines. The project’s water production capacity is approximately 70,000 cubic meters per day, with this capacity planned to be expanded to approximately 170,000 cubic meters per day in the future.

The project will consist of the construction of a desalination plant in Tocopilla City

CODELCO boasts a share of about 10% of the world’s copper production and owns the world’s largest existing copper mine production facilities as well as several excellent copper mines and facilities that are highly competitive worldwide. While CODELCO currently relies on inland supply for all of the water used in mine development and copper refining processes, it has committed to reducing inland water consumption by 60% by 2030 under a management policy emphasizing environmental protection, securing water supply for communities, and promoting sustainable development. Through this project, CODELCO will contribute to reducing the environmental impact of pumping inland water and maintaining water resources for communities.

Transelec is the leading provider of high voltage systems in Chile, with more than 10,000 km of transmission lines and 69 substations, contributing to transmit power that lights nearly 90% of the homes of covered by the National Power Grid. Transelec will provide its knowledge not only for maintaining required transmission lines but also in developing a project of this vast scale in the country.

Marubeni has a track record of multiple power generation and desalination projects (IWPPs) as well as water production projects (IWPs) mainly in the Middle East, and has most recently worked on the construction, maintenance, and operation of a seawater desalination plant for the Shuqaiq 3 Desalination Project*3 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the Republic of Chile, through Aguas Decima S.A. (100% ownership) since 2006 and Aguas Nuevas S.A. (75% ownership) (hereinafter, “AN”) since 2010, Marubeni has been developing the water supply and sewerage business in six of the country’s 16 provinces, covering approximately 10% of the total population of these provinces. AN, which has extensive knowledge of water business infrastructure operations, including pipelines and RO membrane desalination plants, will lead the maintenance and operation of this project.

Marubeni set its long-term vision for climate change in March 2021 and positioned green strategy as one of the basic policies to enhance corporate value in its mid-term management strategy “GC2024.” By participating in this undertaking, Marubeni will utilize its knowledge of water businesses to contribute to the stable supply of copper, which is indispensable for the realization of a sustainable society.

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