- 22.290555555556 - 68.901944444444Koordinaten: 22 ° 17 ' 26 " S, 68 ° 54' 7" W

Chuquicamata is a town in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, about 15 km from the city of Calama in the Región de Antofagasta. She is known by the former largest copper mining in the world. Meanwhile Chuquicamata is a ghost town - because of the environmental impact of the mine and because under the city also copper was discovered, the inhabitants were resettled Chuquicamatas 2004. They now live in a new, purpose-built residential area in Calama.


The area was used even before the arrival of the Spaniards by the residents. The word comes from the Aymara Chuquicamata and probably dates from the first inhabitants of the country. Chile has received the official control of the territory only with the Salpeter and the subsequent contracts, however, the copper deposits were discovered later.



In 1912, the U.S. firm Guggenheim Bros. took the deposit in possession. A year later started the initial work began in the spring of 1915 in Chuquicamata, the production of electrolytically produced copper. 1923 Guggenheim Bros. wore mine to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. With the reform of the constitution on 11 July 1971, copper production was nationalized. Since then, the mine is owned by the state company Codelco.


Chuquicamata is a so-called porphyry copper deposit and one of the leading copper producers in the world. From 1915 to 2005, the mine promoted 2.3 billion tonnes of ore with an average copper content of 1.53 % by weight. For the period 2006-2014 an additional 700 million tons are planned. The mine is about 4,300 m long and 3,000 m wide and up to 1000 meters deep. Multiplying these maximum extents gives 13 km ² rectangular area and 11 km ³ block volume; rough estimate can be the actual volume of the well with 17 % ( half cone area) to 52 % ( inscribed ellipsoid) thereof. In 2014 the open pit is expected to reach its maximum depth of 1,100 m. According to different scenarios of Codelco Norte Division, which operates the mine, to the open pit mining at the latest in 2017 end. An intensive exploration program has demonstrated additional resources in the amount of 2.3 billion tonnes of ore with a copper content of 0.81 % by weight to a depth of 1,800 m below the open pit. A feasibility study provides for the underground mining of this deposit part and a ramp is being ascended for further exploration activities. The underground production will begin according to the study in 2014 and reach full capacity of 45 million tonnes of ore per year in 2020.

Effects on human health and the environment

Around 20,000 workers are employed in the mine, which is considered the largest man-made development pit. The difference resulting from the extraction of copper dust is the cause of many diseases (typically dust lungs, asthma and some cancers ). Since Chile international environmental agreements is a party, the residents were relocated in 2004 to Calama, to reduce the risk to people's health. The city has since been hermetically sealed off, the houses are all still and look as if the inhabitants would return tomorrow. Was provided to the workers in the old city of the living room for free, you have to buy in their new neighborhood in Calama the apartments.

Copper production is the biggest polluter in the area. The arsenic and other toxic effluents containing chemicals were decades disposed of directly into the desert and polluted the landscape. Nowadays, a portion of the waste water for production is recycled, as water is not sufficiently available in the desert and has to be brought in expensive.

Mineral discoveries

Chuquicamata is as rich ore deposit also a well-known locality for many different minerals and their varieties. A total of 130 recognized by the IMA minerals and 8 varieties were able to be proven so far (as of 2013). Chuquicamata is also considered for the following 18 minerals as type locality: Bellingerit, Betpakdalite - NaNa, Cuprocopiapit, Klinoatacamit, Kröhnkit, Leightonit, Libethenit, Lindgrenit, Mendozavilit - KCa, Metahohmannit, Natrochalcit, Obradovicit - KCu, Obradovicit - Nacu, Obradovicit - NaNa, Parabutlerit, Salesit, Sampleit and Ungemachit.

Other mineral discoveries include Atacamit, Brochantite, Coquimbit, Devillin, enargite, Fibroferrit, galena ( galena ), Halotrichit, ilmenite, jarosite, Kalinite, Lavendulan, mirabilite, niter, Olivenit, Powellit, quartz, Römerit, sphalerite, thenardite, ulexite, Voltait, Wulfenite and zoisite.


  • Website of Codelco Codelco Norte Division