Largest open pit copper mine in the world, Chuquicamata, Chile

Chuquicamata, or “Chuqui,” as it is commonly called, is currently the largest open pit copper mine in the world. It was named after a small city in the north-west of Chile. It began copper production on May 18, 1915.







Chuquicamata is located 15 km north of the city of Calama in the region of Antofagasta. The mine is elliptical in form, with a surface of almost 8,000,000 m2, and it is 900 m deep.

The place has been exploited since pre-Hispanic times. The word Chuquicamata comes from the Aymara language and refers to the first inhabitants of the zone. The territory where the mine is located passed to Chilean control and sovereignty due to the War of the Pacific and the subsequent treaties.

The first copper bar, during its contemporary history, was produced on May 18, 1915 by the US company Guggenheim Bros. The company continued the mining exploitation with the names Chilean Exploration Co, Chile Copper Co., and Anaconda Co., until copper mining was nationalized during the Salvador Allende administration.

Today, the state-owned Chilean National Copper Corporation (Codelco) controls the mine. In 2003 encroachment by the growing mine and increased enforcement of pollution regulations forced the dismantling of the city of Chuquicamata — founded as a mining camp — workers and inhabitants were then relocated to the nearby city of Calama.

Until 1999 Chuquicamata had the name “Codelco Chile Division Chuquicamata” , since then (Codelco) renamed it to “Codelco Norte”.

In the next 10 years (Codelco) has plans to make “Chuquicamata” an Underground Mine, mainly because the “pit” is becoming deeper and it makes the process of extracting the mineral difficult. The changes also mean that “Chuquicamata” will substantially improve its capacity for processing copper.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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