July 31, 2020 / 2:39 PM / 5 days ago

UPDATE 1-Chilean regulators charge BHP´s Escondida copper mine with water misuse

(Adds details, statement on regulator’s allegation)

SANTIAGO, July 31 (Reuters) - Chile`s environmental watchdog said on Friday it would charge BHP’s Escondida copper mine, the world`s largest, with drawing more water from the parched Chilean desert than its permits allowed for nearly 15 years.

The SMA regulator said the mine had caused a sufficiently serious drop in the water table in one area that the violation could result in the revocation of its environmental permit, closure or a fine.

BHP did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the allegation.

“The company, despite committing to reduce its extraction of water ... exceeded the maximum level permitted since 2005, tripling that level in 2019,” the regulator said in a statement.

Chile´s northern desert, where BHP operates, is the world´s driest. Both copper and lithium miners there have for decades struggled to reduce their water intake to lessen impact on the environment and scarce water supplies.

Chile is the world´s top copper producer. (Reporting by Aislinn Laing and Dave Sherwood; editing by Grant McCool)

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