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Water and environmental sustainability

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Principal researcher: Yarko Niño.
Associate academic researchers: James McPhee, Aldo Tamburrino.
Associate researchers: Sheila Comte, Edward Cornwell, Andreina García, Miguel Lagos, Santiago Montserrat, Tomás Trewhela.
Ph.D students: Álvaro González, Maibelin Rosales, Yohann Videla.
MSc students: Dennys Caro, Cristóbal Delgado, Marlene Huerta, Carlos Paredes, Yurieh Marcela Quinteros.

Fundamentals

By the very nature of its actions, mining activity generates direct and indirect impacts and it’s one of the industries with the highest potential to modify the natural and cultural environment, creating environmental and social change. That makes imperative to develop basic knowledge and technologies that allow to foresee and mitigate the impacts caused by mining activity, during operation and abandonment, on the quality of water and air, the ecosystems that depend on these elements to survive, and on the communities that live along mining.

Goals

Our goal is to develop basic knowledge and technologies that allow to foresee and mitigate the impacts caused by mining activity, during operation and abandonment, on the quality of water and air, the ecosystems that depend on these elements to survive, and on the communities that live along mining, on ecosystems located in a mine’s influence zone, and on human communities that live along mining activity. The group’s general goal is to develop predictive models of the behavior of several technologic and natural systems that establish the degree of environmental sustainability of the mining industry, including the work of hydrologic systems that function as superficial and underground water source for mining; biologic and physical-chemical mechanisms that determine the behavior of aquatic ecosystems, and science applied to design and optimal operation of engineering systems that intensively use water.

Application

The Water and Environmental Sustainability Group currently develops basic and applied research projects in all areas of action. Among them we highlight:

  • Aquatic biota and water quality in Salar de Atacama. For SQM (2013). These studies consist of the environmental survey and monitoring of physical-chemical and biological variables of the Sóncor, Puilar, Peine and Quelana lagoons of Salar de Atacama. The annually-released reports of these studies are part of the environmental qualifications resolutions attached to the extractive activities developed by SQM in Salar de Atacama. Activities associated to this project include field and cabinet work.
  • Integral study of hydric availability and hazard; for Codelco, El Teniente division (2011-2013). The project seeks to answer questions related to alluvial flow risks, as well as projections of the availability of water resources in the long term in mountain areas that supply the work of the El Teniente division of Codelco. This project has the added value of a productive company funding a study that has been always presented as research, with field, cabinet and laboratory work.

Research lines

  1. Sustainable mining: Studies on impact mitigation over natural resources and population.
  2. Integral study of hydric resources and hazard in mountain areas.
  3. Efficient use of water and energy in hydraulic transport systems of concentrates and tailings.
  4. Effects of climate change on glaciers of the Chilean North and Center areas.
  5. Update of the National Nivometric Network and melt flow rates forecast.

Fact sheet: Water and environmental sustainability