Codelco is keen for other companies to buy capacity on the Region VI pipeline, which is owned by Chilean transport company GasAndes, because "the more users of gas there are in the region, the lower the rate is that we have to pay," Rivas said. Chilean generators Colbun and AES Gener are both considering gas-fired thermoelectric projects in Region VI, but both projects face environmental opposition from local vineyards who say the plants would be located too close to their land.
Codelco began using gas from the pipeline in July, substituting diesel in the smelter's internal distribution network as part of a clean-up program that also involved building two gas emissions capturing plants. Codelco awarded Valparaiso-based gas distributor GasValpo a contract to carry out the conversion - at a cost of US$5mn - and supply natural gas for 15 years. Gas supplies will reach 180,000 cubic meters a day by 2005, he said. Codelco has previously stated that the use of natural gas will cut monoxide and dioxide generation by more than 50%, boost efficiency, reduce costs and make for a safer working environment. Diesel fuel will still be available for two years as a backup.
El Teniente is the biggest underground copper mine on earth and is in the process of being expanded to produce some 480,000 tonnes a year of the metal.
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