Chañarcillo Mine

Useful Information

Location: Between Vallenar and Copiapo at the Panamerican Highway. Chanarcillo lies 14 km east.
Classification: MineSilver Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1832 large silver deposit discovered by woodcutter, prospector and muleteer Juan Godoy.
1847 mine opened.
1875 mine closed.
1888 mines flooded.



Chañarcillo Mine, or better Juan Godoy town is a sort of mining ghost town. Although many buildings are destroyed, the street layout is clearly discernible. There are the foundations of old processing plants and smelters and the remains of mines, and old adits. The town once housed over a thousand workers and their families, alltogether some 14,000 inhabitants. Today it is completely deserted, depite the ongoing mining activities of the Compania Minera Rio Huasco. The town was named after Juan Godoy, a woodcutter, prospector and muleteer who discovered the large silver deposits.

Today the remaining silver in the old heap dumps of the mine are reclaimed. Some 140 men are commuting by bus from the towns of Frierina, Vallenar and Copiapó and live in a mine camp from Monday to Saturday. Front-end loaders feed the mineralized dump into one of a number of crushing and screening plants located around the hill. The crushed material is processed in one of six ball mills of various sizes. About 160 t of ore are processed, with an average content of 160g/t silver. The operation needs a lot of water, some 28tns per day, 12tons are pumped from the flooded mine, 16tons are brought by tanker lorry a distance of 72 km from Copiapó. There is abundant surface material to support the current level of operations for some time.

The main historic mining area was in the La Descubridora ravine. During the mid 19th century this was the third biggest silver mine in the world. Innumerable adits were mining at least six vein systems. The whole area is sometimes refered to as Swiss Cheese.