Chuquicamata Copper Mine

Chuquicamata Mine - Chuqui Sur Mine - Exótica

Useful Information

Location: In Codelco, 15 km north of the city of Calama, Atacama Desert.
250 km north-east of Antofagasta, 1,200 km north of Santiago. (22°17'S 68°54'W)
Open: All year weekdays 14.
Reservation at least three days in advance required.
Fee: Free.
Donation to non profit institution Chuqui Ayuda a la Infancia requested.
Classification: MineCopper Mine open cast
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: Size of pit: L=4,500 m, W=3,540 m, D=800 m.
Production: 650,000 metric tons annually.
A=2,800 m asl.
Guided tours: D=60 min.
Address: Corporación Nacional del Cobre (Codelco), Huérfanos 1270, Santiago, Tel: +56-2-690-3000 (Informaciones), Fax: +56-2-690-3059. E-mail: contact
Reservations: E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


pre-Hispanic times first mined.
1910 start of copper mining by the Chile Exploration Company of the Guggenheim Group.
1923 mine sold to the Anaconda Copper Company.
1952 Ernesto Guevara made a stop at the mine on his motorcycle tour around South America.


Dumping, Waste, Chuquicamata Copper Mine, Chile. Public Domain.

The Atacama Desert in the north of the country contains major reserves of copper, gold, silver and industrial metals, it is the heart of Chile's mining industry. Chile's copper mines provide over 30% of the world's mine production of recoverable copper, according to statistics of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Chuquicamata is an open cast copper mine, where a relatively poor copper ore is mined in impressive huge amounts. Modern mining and smelting technology allows the usage of such deposits at unrivaled low costs. The ore contains only between 1,13% and 1,18% metals, most of it copper, but also molybdenum and selenium in a very low proportion.

The Chuquicamata mine produces sulfidic ores, whilst the nearby Chuqui Sur mine, formerly known as Exótica, primarily produces oxide ores.


The name Chuquicamata is a word from the Aymara language and refers to the chuco or chuqui Native American Indian group. They worked the copper deposits here in pre-Hispanic times to make their weapons and tools.

The opencast was the biggest pit in the world during the nineties. But it has lost its foremost position and the new Escondida Copper Mine is today the world's largest producing mine with 750,000 metric tons of production which was 5.6% of the world's production in 2000.

In the nineties Chuquicamata produced annually 600,000 to 650,000 metric tons of copper, and in 2000 this was 4.9% of the world's production. The mine also produces around 13,500 t of molybdenum every year.

The tour of the working mine is offered by the mining company. It is free, but the visitors are requested to donate a small amount for the non-profit organization Chuqui Ayuda a la Infancia which helps children from the nearby village Calama. It is necessary to make a reservation at least three days in advance, however, it is possible to do this by email. The visit of the mine is a popular trip and part of most tour company schedules. But the mine is a working mine, and so the visits are more or less a kind of promotion visit of the mining company.

Arrive early, preferably before 9.45 at the Oficina Ayuda a la Infancia, at the top of Avenida JM Carrera. You will need a passport and a small donation, about US$0.50. Demand is high in January and February, so you need to get there early. If there is sufficient demand afternoon tours can be arranged. To enter the smelter building you must wear sturdy boots, long trousers and a long-sleeved jacket although the mining company provides protective clothing as well.

Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.