Minera Escondida copper mine desalination and water transmission

100% available water in the driest of deserts through highly efficient desalination.


The Minera Escondida copper mine is located in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest on earth. BHP Billiton, the owner and operator of the mine, was faced with the challenge of eliminating the use of lake water and natural resources from their mining process by 2019.

Due to the geographic location, the climatic conditions and the need for reliable water supplies, seawater desalination was chosen as the preferred method to supply water to the mine, providing greater water security and reducing BHP Billiton’s consumption of non-renewable freshwater.

Customer and industry need 

The ABB Ability™ integrated automation and electrical solution ensured a smooth transition from the renewable water to the newly built desalination plant.

Using a reverse-osmosis process, the desalination plant will provide desalinated water to the copper mine and filter and circulate dissolved minerals and biological content back into the ocean.

ABB Ability™ solutions

ABB Ability™ solutions enable improved control, efficiency and safety of water distribution networks. They consist of an advanced SCADA system integrated with water leakage and quality management systems, scalable to any size of network.

ABB and ABB Ability™ portfolio highlights:

  • ABB Ability™ System 800xA completely integrated with the water supply system, the desalination plant and the mine control (12,000 I/O points)
  • 5 extended operator workplaces for a completely optimized control room design
  • Integration of electrification equipment via IEC61850

The mine never had to cease operations thanks to the smooth project commission that took place over the course of 1 year.


The complete solution coordinates the overall operation of the entire Minera Escondida mining process. From seawater desalination to the water supply to the mining process, the result is a total solution that optimizes the energy efficiency and performance of the plant. Effective project commissioning also ensured that operations were sustained throughout the process.

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