Chile court orders BHP's Cerro Colorado copper mine to stop pumping from aquifer

SANTIAGO, Aug 19 (Reuters) - A Chilean court ordered BHP’s Cerro Colorado copper mine on Thursday to stop pumping water from an aquifer over environmental concerns, according to filings seen by Reuters.

The same First Environmental Court in July ruled that the relatively small copper mine in Chile’s northern desert must start again from scratch on an environmental plan for a maintenance project.

The court on Thursday called for “precautionary measures” that include ceasing groundwater extraction for 90 days from an aquifer near the mine.

The court said the measures were necessary to prevent adverse effects from pumping from becoming more acute.

Copper miners across Chile, the world’s top producer of the red metal, have been forced in recent years to find alternative means to feed water to their operations as drought and receding aquifers have hampered prior plans. Many have sharply reduced use of continental freshwater or turned to desalination plants.

BHP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the court’s decision.

A ruling in January by Chile’s Supreme Court upheld local indigenous communities’ complaint that the environmental review process had failed to consider concerns about the project’s impacts on natural resources, including the regional aquifer.

Cerro Colorado, a small mine in BHP’s Chilean portfolio, produced about 1.2% of Chile’s total copper output in 2020. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Erik Lopez, writing by Dave Sherwood; editing by Grant McCool)