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Mining in the Atacama Region, Chile: Introduction

History of mining in the Atacama Region (2)

Mining 1830 - 1920

W. Griem, 2021

Text: Introduction
Intro Mining History

Mineros, pirquineros en una mina en Atacama en 1990 (Chile)

Photo of a gold mine in the Co. Monardes area around 1990, mined at a depth of about 100 metres. Gold-bearing rock (80 g/tonne) was mined. The "veta" (= vein) was about 40 cm wide. (Photo: Wolfgang Griem, 1990)

Old ladder in a small mine in Atacama desert, Chile

Ladder in a small mine in Atacama, Chile

 Page 1  | Page 2  | Goldanalyse

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Small-scale mining in the Atacama is deeply embedded in the culture of North Chile. Many companies have been working for centuries, but are heavily dependent on raw material prices.

Many of the small and micro-companies mine projects soon reached a considerable depth, as they were often historically known mines. The veins can contain from 80 to 200 g/tonne gold in their best ranges. The rock was lifted up to the surface by simple winches. In some cases, the gold content of the material was checked on site and later transported by small trucks to the next processing plant. Of course, these mines did not always comply with the applicable safety standards. Serious accidents often occurred. The economic situation of the Pirquineros (miners in small-scale mining) naturally also depended directly on raw material prices. In many mines, for example, mining was only carried out in phases. However, at depths of more than 200 m and sinking ore production was mostly stopped completely quickly.

Today, there are three types of mining operations in Atacama: The micro-enterprises which use simple aids to exploit corridor-shaped deposits. Two to eight miners often work in the deep, inadequately secured galleries.

Medium-sized mining companies employ considerably more people (around 200 or more per mine); the operations are often well equipped, with a not quite modern technology.
The large companies (1000 employees and more) work according to international safety standards with an absolutely modern technology.


Mining in the Atacama desert, Chile

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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