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.

July 8, 2024 | STOCKHEAD

Seawater will flow to the Huasco Valley, supplying communities and mine developments such as Hot Chili’s Costa Fuego copper-gold project. Pic: Getty Images

Special Report: Water is a valued resource that is scarce in areas like the Atacama, which is why copper-gold developer Hot Chili is pairing up with Chile’s Compania Minera del Pacifico to form a water joint venture.

The Atacama region includes the Atacama Desert – the world’s driest nonpolar desert in the world – and is unsurprisingly one of the most water stressed regions of the world.

It is also where Hot Chili’s (ASX:HCH) Tier-1 Costa Fuego copper-gold project is located – specifically within the Huasco Valley that has a long history of mining.

Costa Fuego includes the outstanding Cortadera deposit with an indicated resource of 798Mt grading 0.45% copper equivalent for contained resources of 2.9Mt copper, 2.6Moz gold, 12.9Moz silver and 68,000t of molybdenum.

Costa Fuego also holds a further inferred resource of 203Mt @ 0.31% copper equivalent for 0.5Mt copper, 0.4Moz gold, 2.4Moz silver and 12,000t molybdenum.

Mines typically need considerable amounts of water to operate, a point highlighted by Hot Chili’s estimate the Huasco Valley may need up to 3,700 litres per second of desalinated water in the future for its new mine developments.

water supply concept study released in February this year confirmed the potential for a large-scale, multi-user desalinated water network serving the entire Huasco Valley, which rather neatly aligns with the Chilean Government’s push for such networks in the Atacama.

The conceptual multi-user, desalination water network. Pic: Hot Chili

Water supply security

Given how important a secure water supply is to mining developments – including Costa Fuego – agriculture and communities in the Huasco Valley, HCH and Chilean iron ore company Compania Minera del Pacifico have established a new water company HW Aguas para El Huasco SpA (Huasco Water).

The 80-20 joint venture will hold the maritime water extraction licence, water easements, costal land accesses and second maritime application previously held by Sociedad Minera El Águila SpA (SMEA), which is also jointly owned by the two companies.

Huasco Water aims to develop a multi-user seawater and desalinated water supply network to supply future water demand for communities, agriculture and new mining developments for the Huasco Valley region of Chile.

HCH and CMP will be foundation offtakers for Huasco Water with the former’s Costa Fuego project expected to consume some 700l/s of sea water while CMP’s Los Colorados iron ore mine will require about 200l/s of desalinated water.

Water offtake discussions are also underway with nearby mine developers and additional non-mining, desalinated water customers situated close to Costa Fuego.

Water infrastructure trends

The company noted that its approach towards potential outsourcing and development of shared infrastructure, in addition to preserving scarce continental water sources, is fast becoming the accepted and responsible approach for unlocking future mining developments in the world’s most prolific copper producing region.

It highlighted Antofagasta’s recent sale of their water assets and water rights to the Centinela copper mine for US$600 million to a consortium of Transelec and Almar Water, which will finance, build, own and operate an expansion project that will sell seawater to the Centinela mine expansion.

The consortium will build a 144km long seawater pipeline using Centinela’s water rights that will parallel the existing pipeline from port to mine, allowing Antofagasta to save US$380M in capital expenditure for the construction of its stage 2 water infrastructure expansion.

HCH said this highlights the strategic nature and implicit value of critical water access rights within the Atacama, and an increasing trend in Chile towards outsourcing in the industrial infrastructure sector.