Inverted Infrastructural Monuments, pt. 3

[The Escondida Mine in the Atacama Desert, Chile. Image courtesy NASA GSFC, MITI, ERSDAC, JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.]

The nationalization of the Chilean copper mines, originally pioneered in the 1950s, was built around the considerable dependence of the Chilean economy on copper exports--some 60 to 75% of the Chilean GDP comes from copper exports. And this dependence extends beyond its borders, as Chile supplies the world with about one third the global supply. Leading that economic drive is the Escondida Mine--seen above, from above. The Escondida mine has majority ownership by the (Australian-British-Dutch-owned) BHP Billiton, which is the worlds largest mining company; or, as their tag line bluntly proclaims, "Resourcing the Future." (BHP Billiton requires considerable unpacking, which is filed for later.) They manage mining and processing operations in 25 countries, employing approximately 38,000 people, and their primary by-products are base metals such as copper and lead. The relationship between Chile, copper, and global trade is evident in this truth: The massive earthquake on February 27, 2010 in Chile delivered economic aftershocks as far as Wall Street, as the cooper prices spiked intensely amid fears of global supply delays. Copper is the second largest consumption item of non-ferrous metals in China. Statistics from China Customs showed that China imported 1.38 million tons of copper and 2.88 million tons of copper ore in 2004. (via people daily)

[The radiating deposit of copper effluent fans out from the Chuquicamata mine. Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.]

[Escondidas terraces, or benches, from open-pit mining.]

Located in the Chilean Atacama Desert, the Escondida Mine employs over 5,700 people producing copper, gold, and silver. The massive open-pit mine came on stream in 1990. Current capacity is 127,000 tons/day of ore; 2007 production was at 1.483 million tons of copper worth US$ 10.12 billion. Primary concentration of the ore is done on-site; the concentrate is then sent to the coast for further processing through a 170 km long, 9" pipe. Escondida is related geologically to three porphyry bodies intruded along the Chilean West Fissure Fault System. Already the largest copper mine in the world, Escondida has recently established plans for expanding (via reuters). Ironically, given its seen-from-space status, Escondida means "hidden."

[Northern mining sites of Chile along the west fissure fault line. Image ©2010 Andina Minerals.]


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