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The pit viewed from entrance



Location in Chile
Antofagasta Region
Coordinates 68.9022417WCoordinates:

221819.66S 0685408.07W22.3054611S


Copper, gold

Chuquicamata (choo-kee-k-MAH-t), or "Chuqui" as it is more familiarly known, is

by excavated volume the biggest open pit copper mine in the world, located in the north of
Chile, just outside of Calama at 9,350 feet (2,850m) above sea level, 215 km northeast of
Antofagasta and 1,240 km north of the capital, Santiago. Flotation and smelting facilities
were installed in 1952; and expansion of the refining facilities in 1968 made 500,000-ton
annual copper production possible in the late 1970s. The mine is owned and operated by
Codelco, a Chilean state enterprise, since the Chilean nationalization of copper in the late
1960s and early 1970s. Its depth of 850 metres (2,790 ft) makes it the second deepest openpit mine in the world (after Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah, USA).


1 Etymology
2 History
o 2.1 Modern mine
3 Economic effects
4 In culture
5 See also
6 References
7 Further reading
8 External links

There are several versions of the meaning of Chuquicamata.[1][2][3][4] The most widely known
seems to be that it means the limit (camata) of the land of the Chucos (chuqui). Another
says that it means metal (chuqui) tipped wooden (camata) spear. A third says that it means
the distance (camata) that a spear (chuqui) was thrown by an Atacameo to determine the
size of the copper orebody that a god intended to give him as a reward. Yet another theory
is that it means 'Pico de Oro' or 'Peak of Gold'.

The name Chuquicamata is a word from the Aymara language and refers to the chuco or
chuqui Native American Indian group. They worked the copper deposits here in preHispanic times to make their weapons and tools. The opencast was the biggest pit in the

world during the nineties. But it has lost its foremost position and the new Escondida
Copper Mine is today the world's largest producing mine with 750,000 metric tons of
production which was 5.6% of the world's production in 2000. Copper has been mined for
centuries at Chuquicamata as was shown by the discovery in 1899 of "Copper Man", a
mummy dated at about 550 A.D. which was found trapped in an ancient mine shaft by a fall
of rock.[5] It is also said that Pedro de Valdivia obtained copper horseshoes from the natives
when he passed through in the early 16th Century.[6]
Mining activity was relatively small scale until the War of the Pacific when Chile annexed
large areas of both Peru and Bolivia north of its old border, which included Chuquicamata.
There was then a great influx of miners into the area drawn in by 'Red Gold Fever' (La
Fiebre del Oro Rojo)[7] and soon Chuquicamata was covered with mines and mining claims,
over 400 at one point. It was a wild and disorganised camp. Title to claims was often in
doubt due to the defective 1873 Mining Code, and the capture of Calama by the 1891
Chilean Civil War rebels who confiscated mines belonging to loyalists further complicated
titles.[1] Many of the miners lived in makeshift and lawless shanty towns around the mines,
including Punta de Rieles, Placilla and Banco Drummond, which provided alcohol,
gambling and prostitution and where murder was almost a daily occurrence. As late as 1918
the army had to be sent in to keep order.[8] The towns were eventually buried under the
waste dumps to the east of the mine.
These early operations mined veins such as the Zaragoza and Balmaceda, which were high
grade with values up to 10-15% copper, and disregarded the low grade disseminated ore.[8]
One attempt was made to process the low grade ore in 1899-1900 by Norman Walker, a
partner in La Compaia de Cobres de Antofagasta, but it failed leaving the company deeply
in debt.[9] However, mining never really developed satisfactorily in the early days because
of the lack of water, the isolation and lack of communications, lack of capital and
fluctuations in the copper price. Nevertheless larger mining companies eventually emerged,
organised as commercial rather than mining operations to avoid the imperfections of the
mining code,[10] and started to buy up and consolidate the small mines and claims.

Chuquicamata in 1925

Modern mine[edit]

Chuquicamata copper mine in 2007

Mine's waste rock dumped by a giant truck

The modern era started when the American engineer Bradley finally developed a method of
working low grade oxidised copper ores. In 1910 he approached the lawyer and industrialist
Albert C Burrage who sent engineers to examine Chuquicamata. It was the start of copper
mining by the Chile Exploration Company of the Guggenheim Group. Their reports were
good and in April 1911 he started to buy up mines and claims, mainly from the larger
mining companies, in association with Duncan Fox y Cia., an English entrepreneur.[1][2]
Since Burrage did not have the capital to develop a mine, he approached the Guggenheim
Brothers. They examined his claims and estimated reserves at 690 million tonnes grading
2.58% copper.[11] The Guggenheims also had a process for treating the low grade ores
developed by Elias Anton Cappelen Smith[12] and were immediately interested, organised
the Chile Exploration Company (Chilex) in January 1912 and eventually bought out
Burrage for US$25 million in Chilex stock. E. A. Cappelen Smith, consulting metallurgist
for M. Guggenheim's Sons, worked out the first process for the treatment of Chuquicamata
copper oxide ore about 1913, and directed a staff of engineers operating a pilot plant at
Perth Amboy, New Jersey, on three shifts for an entire year.[13][14]
Chilex then went ahead with the development and construction of a mine on the eastern
section of the Chuquicamata field. (It acquired the remainder of the field gradually over the
next 15 years). The 10,000 tons per day leaching plant was planned to produce 50,000 tons
of electrolytic copper annually. Amongst the equipment purchased were steam shovels from
the Panama Canal.[2][15] A port and an oil-fired power plant were built at Tocopilla, 90 miles
to the west and an aqueduct was constructed to bring water in from the Andes.[16] Production

started on May 18, 1915. Actual production rose from 4,345 tonnes in the first year to
50,400 tonnes in 1920 and 135,890 tonnes in 1929 before the Depression hit and demand
Production for many years came from the oxidised capping of the orebody which merely
required leaching and then electrowinning of the copper, but by 1951 the oxidised reserves
were largely exhausted and the company built a mill, flotation plant and smelter to treat the
huge reserves of underlying supergene copper sulfides. These secondary sulfides arise from
the leaching of the overlying ore and its re-deposition on and replacement of the deeper
primary (hypogene) sulfides.
For many years it was the mine with the largest annual production in the world but was
recently overtaken by Minera Escondida. Nevertheless it remains the mine with by far the
largest total production of approximately 29 million tonnes of copper to the end of 2007
(excluding Radomiro Tomi).[18][19] Despite over 90 years of intensive exploitation it remains
one of the largest known copper resources. Its open pit is the world's largest at 4.3 km long,
3 km wide and over 900 m deep [20] and its smelter[21] and electrolytic refinery (855,000
tonnes p.a.) are amongst the world's largest. Chuquicamata is also a significant producer of
Chuquicamata is now amalgamated with the operating Radomiro Tomi mine to the north
(but still on the same mineralised system), the developing Alejandro Hales mine just to the
south (formerly Mansa Mina, a slightly impolite description) and the recently discovered
'Toki cluster' of copper porphyries to form the Codelco Norte division of Codelco.[22]

Economic effects[edit]

Chiquicamata on the reverse of the 500 Escudo bill

Copper mining has long been the most consistent of Chilean exports; and in current day, it
still accounts for almost one-third of all foreign trade. Yet that 1/3 is down from a peak of
almost 75% in earlier years.
Copper has been mined in the land area between central Chile and southern Peru since
Colonial times. Yet it was not until the 20th century that copper reached the importance of
other mining exports such as saltpeter or silver. Before the first world war, saltpeter,
collected in Chile from abundant deposits of caliche in the Atacama Desert, was the main
source of nitrates in the world. After the World War I, because of the production of artificial
nitrates, synthesized first in Germany by the combination of the Haber process and the
Ostwald process, the world market for saltpeter, which was Chiles main export, collapsed.
In turn, Chiles economy became heavily dependent on the copper industry. It was from that
period that copper became known as Chiles salary.
By the late 1950s, the three largest copper mines in Chile were Chuquicamata, El Salvador
mine, and El Teniente. Chuquicamata and El Salvador were owned and operated by the
Anaconda Copper Company. These mines were mainly self-contained and self-sustaining
settlements. They were complete with their own cities to house the workers, their own
water and electrical plants, schools, stores, railways, and even in certain cases their own
police forces.
In 1971, Chile's newly elected Socialist president Salvador Allende confiscated the
Chuquicamata mine from Anaconda. Anaconda lost two-thirds of its copper production.
Two years later, a compensation of $250 million was paid to Anaconda by the Chilean
government, after the military overthrow of Allende in September 1973.

In culture[edit]
The mine at Chuquicamata is represented in the 2004 Che Guevara biopic, The Motorcycle
Diaries, and the book of the same name. In the movie, Che Guevara is depicted visiting the
mine with companion, Alberto Granado, and being deeply affected by the plight of the
migrant workers seeking employment from uncaring mine bosses.

See also[edit]

Chilean nationalization of copper

Geology of Chile
Mir mine
Bingham Canyon Mine


^ Jump up to: a b c La Lucha de los Mineros Contra las leyes: Chuquicamata (19001915) Luis Orellana Retamales
^ Jump up to: a b c Cierre Campamento
Jump up ^ El Mercurio, Antofagasta
Jump up ^ Nombre de Chuquicamata
Jump up ^ The production of copper in 6th century Chiles Chuquicamata mine.
David R. Fuller
Jump up ^ Copper horseshoes for Pedro de Almagro
Jump up ^ La Llegada de los Romanticos Inveersionistas
^ Jump up to: a b Closure of Chuquicamata camp
Jump up ^ La Lucha de los Mineros Contra la Leyes: Chuquicamata 1900-1915)
Jump up ^ Los primeros pasos de Chuquicamata
Jump up ^ Closure of Chuquicamata Camp
Jump up ^ The Decline of the Copper Industry in Chile
Jump up ^ The Oxide Plant ("Mining Engineering" Volume IV. 1952)
Jump up ^ History of Corporacion Nacional del Cobre de Chile
Jump up ^ New York Times article on Chuquicamata
Jump up ^ History of Codelco
Jump up ^ The Decline of the Copper Industry in Chile and the Entrance of
North ... By Joanne Fox Przeworski
Jump up ^ Yacimientos Metaliferos De Chile, Carlos Ruiz Fuller & Federico
Peebles, page 54.
Jump up ^ Cochilco Yearbook 1986-2005
Jump up ^ Codelco 2004 Annual Report
Jump up ^ USGS Copper Smelters
Jump up ^ Codelco 2006 Annual Report

Further reading[edit]

Camus, Francisco; John H. Dilles (2001). "A special issue devoted to porphyry
copper deposits of Northern Chile". Economic Geology 96 (2): 233237.
doi:10.2113/96.2.233. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
Ossandon, C. Guillermo; Roberto Freraut C., Lewis B. Gustafson, Darryl D.
Lindsay, Marcos Zentilli (2001). "Geology of the Chuquicamata mine: A progress
report". Economic Geology 96 (2): 249270. doi:10.2113/96.2.249. Retrieved 200711-11.

Sandrine Mrch (Director) (2007-11-10). "Chili entre mine et famine". Arte 360,
GEO. 55 min minutes in. Retrieved 2007-11-09.



External links[edit]
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chuquicamata.

Imgenes 3D en Google
Codelco Chile - Chuquicamata info
Chuqui: The Life and Death of a Mining Town - Documentary video about the last
days of the town of Chuquicamata

Jump up ^
Jump up ^

Retrieved from "

Copper mines in Chile
Mines in Antofagasta Region
Surface mines in Chile
Atacama Desert

This page was last modified on 22 March 2015, at 21:04.

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