Sierra Gorda is an open pit copper mine in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. A 141 km pipeline has been built to carry seawater between Mejillones Port on the Pacific Ocean and the mine site.
The Sierra Gorda project involves the mining and processing of ore to produce concentrate containing copper and molybdenum. The plant flow sheet includes crushing by high-pressure grinding rolls, ball milling and conventional flotation to produce both a copper and a molybdenum concentrate. Except for specific plant areas, the process plant has been designed to operate with seawater. Quadra FNX has contracted BRASS Chile S.A. to develop the seawater delivery system through a 140 km pipeline from the port of Mejillones to the plant site, with a maximum transport capacity of 1,200 l/sec.
The project employs a new and innovative process for a large-scale mining operation including the use of seawater and a detection system to prevent accidental leaks and allow the Sierra Gorda project to meet the highest environmental standards. Leakage Detection System based on Distributed Fiber Optic, consisting on three DiTeSt DTS units connected to the Integrated Operational Control Room have been implemented and commissioned by GeoMediciones, Chile. The three leak detection analysers are installed along the pipe generating continuous optical signals into optical fiber cables of a SCADA system that provides data transmission along the pipeline. DiView software with real time notification and alert system ensures that any accidental seawater leakages are immediately reported to the pipeline operator who can close the appropriate valves to stop the flow of materials. With the location of any pinpointed leaks, corrective measures can be undertaken at minimal time and expense.