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Techint Engineering & Construction undertakes project to benefit water sustainability for Codelco in Chile

Published 8.6.2023

The company has started work to build a desalination plant and aqueduct supplying water to three large mines in northern Chile for Codelco. The project will contribute to reducing groundwater consumption by 60% by 2030.

Aguas Horizonte S.P.A., the Marubeni-Transelec consortium, has granted Techint in Chile the Order to Proceed for an Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract to supply desalinated water to the Northern District of Codelco, the National Copper Corporation of Chile.

The project involves building a reverse osmosis desalination plant with an initial design capacity of 840 liters/second and the potential to expand this to 1,956 liters/second. The project includes marine works, a water impulsion system of approximately 160 km in length of 48"-diameter pipes and a water distribution system for each mine, as well as a reservoir and related electrical infrastructure.

The plant will be supplying water to three large copper mines in the north of the country: Radomiro Tomic, Chuquicamata and Ministro Hales.


What does the water desalination system involve?

* The seawater is collected through two pipelines extending 740 meters into the ocean.

* When the water reaches the desalination plant, it passes through a system of semi-permeable membranes and, through a process called reverse osmosis, the salt is separated from the water.

* The brine is returned to the sea along a 550-meter emissary pipe, in regulated quantities using diffusers to protect the environment.

* Desalinated water of industrial quality is pumped up to over 3,000 meters above sea level.

* The pipeline passes underground for over 160 km and will be laid with the necessary steps taken to protect both sites of archaeological interest and wildlife.

* The first pumping station is planned on one side of the plant, propelling the water up to an altitude of 1,100 m. The second pumping station will drive it another 800 m further up, and the last one another 1,300 m to reach the industrial water reservoir at the Radomiro Tomic mine site.

* This reservoir has a capacity of 250,000 m3 and feeds two smaller reservoirs, one of which will be used for processes at Radomiro Tomic and another for those at Chuquicamata and Ministro Hales.



At the peak of work, there are expected to be 5,800 people working on the project, including own staff and subcontractors.

"This project is a major challenge for Techint E&C, not only in terms of personnel recruitment and management, but also in terms of managing all the subcontracts," explains Claudio Perillo, General Director of the Andean Area. He adds: "Carrying out such a complex large-scale EPC work for Aguas Horizonte and Codelco is a testament to the high international standard and quality of Techint E&C."


Large-scale challenges

The sheer complexity of the work envisaged makes it necessary to bring a new cohort of young professionals on board, creating a significant base of experienced middle managers for the region as well as future leaders. So one important item on the agenda is local staff development.

Marco Matranga, Project Director, emphasizes: “We must make sure that we transmit our values as an organization to this new intake of young talent, such as our passion for doing, our resilience, effort, and the ability to tackle obstacles and solve them with professionalism, rationality and creativity. We must provide positive leadership so that our new human resources can also feel this sense of belonging, a key condition for the project’s success.”

Matranga goes on to say that, "This project is going to require each one of us to give of their very best. The people who step up to the challenge, shouldering more responsibility and making the most of testing situations will grow and develop very significantly in the organization."

According to Rodrigo Larralde Campos, who began working on the process as Regional Business Development Manager for the Andean Area, and who is today the Deputy Project Director, “this project will serve as a platform for Techint E&C to continue growing its operations in Chile. Also, if we carry out the work with the quality and excellence that characterizes us, we can look forward to carrying out similar works in other parts of the world, where the main issue is how to care for water as a key natural resource, in line with the sustainable development of our customer’s operations.”

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