Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Lagos G., Peters D., Videla A. and Jara J.J. (2018)

The effect of mine aging on the evolution of environmental footprint indicators in the Chilean copper mining industry 2001–2015

Revista : Journal of Cleaner Production
Volumen : 174
Páginas : 389-400
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


Abundant evidence suggests that the massive global exploitation of copper mines over the last two decades led to mine aging expressed as ore grade reduction, deepening of open pits and underground operations, hardening of the rock, and increasing stripping ratios. These processes have affected the evolution and change of key environmental footprint indicators. Copper ore grade decline seems the most important of these factors and depends on variables including the rate of extraction, ore deposit geological features, introduction of new technologies, the copper price and its co-products, and the discovery and exploitation of new ore deposits. From 2001 to 2015 Chile increased its copper production by 22% and produced overall 80 million tons of copper, more than it produced in the entire 20th century. This paper explores the effects of mine aging on three key environmental footprint indicators: energy and water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Electric energy consumption per ton of copper should grow in the coming decade at a significantly slower rate than in the last fifteen years because of the slowdown of the ore grade decline in mill concentrators. Additionally, a steeper decrease is expected for the emission of greenhouse gases per ton of copper.