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Mining in the Atacama Region, Chile: Introduction

History of mining in the Atacama Region (1)

Mining 1830 - 1920

W. Griem, 2021

Text: Introduction
Intro Mining History

Mining in the Atacama desert, Chile

Typical Small Mining in the Atacama Desert, Chile

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The beginnings of mining in the Chilean Atacama region go back to pre-Spanish times. After Chile's independence, copper and silver were increasingly mined - today the mining industry still plays an important role in the Atacama region: both highly developed large-scale mining in porphyry deposits and small and medium-sized enterprises can still be found everywhere.

Mining is one of the most important industries in Chile. Gold, silver, copper and iron have been mined in the Atacama region for many centuries. Historical mining certainly began with the pre-Inca cultures. During the Inca reign, it was intensified and developed between 1750 to 1810.
The region became famous for the discovery of the silver deposits Chañarcillo and Tres Puntas at 1830 to 1850 . But already before that, there was a multitude of silver, gold and copper mines.

This mining industry led to a visible development of the region. for example, 1851: construction of the first railway [Here] in Chile, 1857: Foundation of a mining school. Furthermore, the search for other deposits has been intensified, which has often led to positive results up to the present day.
At present, copper is mainly mined in the Atacama region (El Salvador, Candelaria, Manto Verde), gold (La Coipa, Maricunga) and iron (Mina Colorado).


Gold mine in the Atacama desert, Chile
Photo above: Typical small mine in the Atacama region. Many mines were mostly small companies with 4 to 10 miners. Working was done with simple tools in deposits with good ore content. In most cases, these were vein related hydrothermal mineralizations . Most of the miners live near the mine, in the middle of the desert in relatively simple accommodations. At the weekend, or when the quota was reached, they drove home. The earnings were considerably above average in good deposit conditions. So is the risk.

Literature and links: List of books
SIMONIN, L. (1869): Underground life, Mines y Miners. - 522 pages, Translated by H.W. Bristol; London; Chapman & Hall; 1869. (Collection W. Griem)

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Updated: 17.9.2017, 14.1.2018, 28.02.2021
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