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Water/Waste Processing e-News / Industrial

US copper mines face rising costs over water supply concerns

June 10, 2014
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Mining companies across the United States are facing a serious challenge in securing water supply for their operations, the Wall Street Journal reported. Operators are looking for mineral deposits in remote areas that have not been probed yet, and at the same time they need to secure reliable water sources.

Water is key to all mining companies but this is particularly true for copper mines. Almost 50 percent of the world's copper production comes from an area than spans from Utah to Chile and most mines are located in mountainous, dry areas, where costs for water are rising. This poses new problems for miners and, even though the price of copper is relatively resilient due to limited deposits and its wide range of applications, an increase in water costs could also raise miners' overall costs, analysts predict.

Meanwhile, international mining industries lack much of the concerns that U.S. miners have to go through. In China, the second-largest producer of copper, with an annual output of 1.65 million tons, companies have no water shortage issues and the country has tripled its copper production in the past decade. The world's leading copper producer, Chile, also saw its output go up over the same period, by 17 percent, reaching 5.7 million tons annually. By contrast, U.S. copper production has been flat since 2003, coming in at 1.22 million tons last year, the Wall Street Journal said.

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