Chuquicamata Mine

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Chuquicamata Mine

Chuquicamata Mine, world's largest open-pit copper mine, located in the northern Atacama Desert in Chile, approximately 150 miles northeast of the port city of Antofagasta. At 9,500 feet above sea level, it measures 2 miles in length, 1.5 miles in width, and almost half a mile in depth. With estimated reserves of 600 million to 1 billion tons of 1.6 percent copper content, the mine produced 667,000 metric tons in 1991, almost half of Chile's copper output and 13 percent of its foreign revenues. Operated by the state-owned Chile Copper Corporation, it employed 10,000 workers in 1992. Originally purchased by the Guggenheim interests, the mine began operation in 1915. It was sold to the Chile Exploration Company, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Anaconda, in 1923. In the 1920s bitter strikes, led by the leftist Federation of Chilean Workers, and harsh retaliation by the mine's management led to demonstrations of Chilean nationalistic sentiment and to congressional inquiries. In spite of persistent disturbances, Chuquicamata yielded consistently higher profits than Anaconda's domestic operations. The Christian Democratic government of Eduardo Frei Montalvo (1964–1970) "Chileanized" the mine, putting 51 percent of its stock under state control with compensation paid to Anaconda over a twelveyear period. During the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende Gossens (1970–1973), Congress unanimously approved full nationalization. Charging Anaconda with excess profits in the past, the Allende government denied compensation, further provoking the United States opposition to his regime. In 1974 the Augusto Pinochet Ugarte government promised compensation of $253 million; the claim was settled in 1975. The Chuquicamata Mine is still operated by the state company, Codelco, and it currently produces about a third of Chile's exports.

See alsoCopper Industryxml .


Marcial Figueroa, Chuquicamata: La tumba del chileno (1928).

Fredrick B. Pike, Chile and the United States, 1880–1962 (1963), esp. pp. 161, 234, and 409 for the early period.

Theodore H. Moran, Multinational Corporations and the Politics of Dependence: Copper in Chile (1975) for the post-1945 era.

Paul W. Drake, Socialism and Populism in Chile 1932–1952 (1978), esp. pp. 19, 44, 200, 287, 319, 355.

Additional Bibliography

Finn, Janet L. Tracing the Veins: Of Copper, Culture, and Community from Butte to Chuquicamata. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

                                   Christel K. Converse