Hot Chili pours new water company into Chilean valley

July 8, 2024 | The West Australian

Hot Chili has helped establish a new water company in Chile’s Huasco Valley. Credit: File

Hot Chili has entered into a new joint venture (JV) aimed at supplying seawater and desalinated water to mining projects throughout Chile’s Huasco Valley where it is pursuing its own mammoth Costa Fuego copper-gold project.

The company today confirmed it will hold an 80 per cent interest in Huasco Water and its critical water assets in the JV with Chilean iron ore company Compania Minera del Pacifico (CMP). The new company is expected to supply desalinated water to operations including Costa Fuego and CMP’s Los Colorados iron ore mine.

The JV says further offtake negotiations are already underway.

The Huasco Valley region in Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the driest regions on Earth, inducing significant water demands from mining operations and local communities. The new water initiative reflects an increasing trend in the Atacama region towards collaborative water infrastructure development, highlighted by a recent US$600 million (AU$890 million) deal for Antofagasta Minerals’ Atacama water rights and assets.

The Company has been receiving increasing interest from potential strategic funding parties in its advanced Costa Fuego copper-gold development and its recently announced Water Supply Studies. This interest, in combination with a rising copper price environment, provides confidence to accelerate the Company’s growth and development plans whilst preserving control of these assets.

Hot Chili managing director Christian Easterday

The company holds the only granted maritime water concession and necessary permits to provide critical water access to the Huasco Valley. It has outlined about 3700 litres per second of potential future desalinated water demand from new mine developments around the valley alone.

The JV partners are likely to underpin Huasco Water as potential foundation offtakers with the Costa Fuego copper project requiring some 700 litres per second of future seawater demand, while Los Colorados needs a further 200 litres per second. Hot Chili says significant economic, environmental and social synergies exist for all potential customers in the Huasco Valley, especially given growing community and regulatory opposition to continental water extraction in the Atacama.

Initial offtake discussions are already underway with nearby mine developers, with additional non-mining desalinated water customers expected to come from the area immediately adjacent to the Costa Fuego copper hub.

The Costa Fuego copper-gold project, which lies some 740m up the hill from the proposed Huasco desalination plant, features a measured and indicated resource that sits at 798 million tonnes at 0.45 per cent copper equivalent for 3.62 million tonnes of copper equivalent, containing 2.91 million tonnes of copper, 2.64 million ounces of gold, 12.8 million ounces of silver and 68,100 tonnes of molybdenum. It makes it one of a limited number of “globally-significant” copper developments that are not in the hands of a major mining company.

Hot Chili recently executed a $29.9 million fundraising campaign on the back of a US$15 million (A$22.23 million) net smelter royalty (NSR) deal with Osisko Gold Royalties, aimed at driving its Costa Fuego copper hub in Chile into production. It comes as the red metal’s price recently launched to 60-year highs, prompting majors across the world to look to acquire copper-producing assets of scale.

The Costa Fuego prefeasibility study (PFS) is expected in the second half of this year.

By further securing its water supply and also creating a new company capable of luring significant offtake partnerships, Hot Chili now feels confident enough to sink another 25,000m of drilling into the project. It will also pursue more regional exploration and land consolidation in a show of confidence at the copper project, taking final steps forward before a bankable feasibility study and final investment decision.

Copper, water and deep pockets of cash have Hot Chili set up for an eventful second half of the year. And with copper prices remaining solid, the company appears well-positioned now to give its giant Costa Fuego project a good crack at development.