Two people, both in hi vis, walk towards a wind farm.

Responding to the potential physical impacts of climate change

BHP’s Escondida mine is responding to the potential physical impacts of climate change using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most severe climate scenario.1

Escondida is an open-cut copper mine located in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Water used in mining and processing ore is supplied by desalination facilities at the Port of Coloso and pumped 180 km to the mine facility. Copper concentrate is transported to the port via pipelines, while cathodes are transported by either rail or road. From the ports, copper is exported to customers around the world.

With its unique location, supporting infrastructure and surrounding environment and community, Escondida faces a specific set of climate-related risks. The asset has explored ‘worst case’ risk scenarios and potential impacts of climate change exacerbated weather/climate-related events on process or non-process infrastructure (BHP controlled).

Extreme precipitation underpinned several scenarios, due to the potential for it to cause failure of the tailings storage facility or water infrastructure failure, and mine pit or other flooding and run-off. These potential situations could result in health and safety impacts, production downtime, supply disruptions and other adverse impacts. Another scenario explored an increase in sea surface temperature, which could cause an increase in red tides, marine algae and organisms (e.g. jellyfish), leading to damage and disruption at the desalination plant.

The scenarios have been assessed in accordance with BHP’s Risk Framework and captured in our enterprise risk management system and Escondida’s FY2023 life-of-asset plan. Potential impacts on the plan are presented as updated shutdown estimates, which in turn, influence production.

Escondida is also working to prioritise and sequence appropriate controls with further investigations planned into the identified risk scenarios. This includes a detailed flood risk assessment of the tailings storage facility and other critical infrastructure at the mine site and at the Port of Coloso, taking into account climate change projections. These studies will help inform decisions related to improved weather and climate monitoring, business continuity plans and expenditure to adapt to climate change. 

1 The most severe of the IPCC’s four climate scenarios, RCP 8.5 is roughly equivalent to an increase in global average temperatures of 4.3 °C by the end of the century, relative to pre-industrial temperatures.