Dominga Project Overview
Andes Iron has secured the approval of a regional Chilean environmental commission for its $2.5bn Dominga copper-iron project. The project is owned and proposed to be developed by Andes Iron, which acquired the iron-copper property from Mineria Activa in December 2010.
The project has been a source of tension as it was originally denied a project permit. It has been subject to legal battles and prolonged environmental evaluations over the past several due to its proximity to environmentally sensitive areas.
Diego Hernandez, president of Chile’s National Mining Society, an industry group that represents the country’s largest miners, said the eight-year permitting process had been “excessive” but praised the final result. He warned, however, that further legal challenges promised by some critics could still see the project’s progress stymied.
Andes Iron hopes to commence the construction phase of the project in the second half of 2021 after meeting the requirements set by the court.
The Dominga iron and copper mining project involves the construction of two open-pit mines, a mineral processing plant, a water desalination plant, as well as a seaport shipping terminal in the town of Totoralillo Norte, Chile.
The Dominga project is expected to produce up to 12 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of iron concentrate and 150,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of copper concentrate over an estimated mine life of approximately 27 years. The project is expected to generate 10,000 jobs during construction, and 1,450 permanent positions once the project is in operation.
The technical-economic feasibility study concluded that, due to the deposit’s characteristics, it will produce a low-cost premium iron concentrate.
Mining, Processing, and Infrastructure
- The open-pit mine will use drill-blast-load-and-haul operations to extract ore from the two open-pits of the project.
- Ore will be trucked to a nearby processing complex for the production of iron and copper concentrates, while the sterile material produced during the mining operation will be disposed of in a ballast tank.
- The various facilities in the process area will include a primary crusher, a secondary crusher, a stockpile area, a ball mill, high pressure grinding rolls (HPGR), a wet milling facility, an iron concentrate plant, and a copper concentrate plant.
- The project will also house a thickened tailings deposit.
- Desalinated water will be used. The desalination plant will be built in Totoralillo, and water will be transported through an underground pipeline.
- The desalination plant will also deliver water at a rate of five litres per second which will be processed to drinking water for the Commune of La Higuera.
- The iron concentrate from the processing plant will be transported to the facilities near the marine terminal at Totoralillo through a 26km-long, 20in-diameter underground pipeline, while the copper concentrate will be transported by trucks to the port of Coquimbo.
- The iron concentrate will undergo thickening and filtering processes at the Totoralillo marine terminal before being loaded on vessels.
- The various facilities at the Totoralillo seaport terminal will include an iron concentrate filter plant, a desalination plant for treating seawater, stockpiles, closed conveyor belts, and mobile loaders.
Thirty-five kilometers (22 miles) north of what would be the Dominga port is a region with some of the highest marine biodiversity in the world. Protected by the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve. There is concern that the port would harm the habitat of the marine wildlife in a very sensitive area.
In response, Andes Iron has confirmed that only between 4 to 6 ships a month will arrive at the Dominga Boarding Terminal, through an area where currently more than 2,000 ships transit a year.
The company has committed to several initiatives –
- Creating the Center for Sea Studies aimed at effectively protecting the existing marine reserves in the La Higuera commune.
- Obtaining at least 30% of the energy that the project will need from renewable sources, hopefully produced in the same commune or in the region.
- Participating in the studies that the country is carrying out regarding “Green Hydrogen”, as well as getting into the world of electro-mobility.
- Water to be used in Dominga’s production processes will come 100% from the sea and that we will share the water that we will desalinate with the inhabitants of La Higuera, as requested by the communities.
- The company opted for a thickened tailings deposit that reduces dust emissions by 45 times compared to a conventional tailings dam. In addition, after evaluating more than 8 alternatives for its location, the Dominga thickened tailings deposit will be located more than 40 kilometers from the marine protected areas.
The company is hoping to start construction in the second half of 2021 but there is still considerable opposition so the actual timeframe will depend on further legal challenges.
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