Sunday, September 5, 2010

South American Economic Gem: Chile and its Mines

With the juxtaposition of deep water trenches to the west and the Andes mountains on the east, Chile is one of the most geographically and geologically enigmatic places in South America. Spanning nearly 40 degrees of latitude, the country is ten times longer than its widest east to west point. What really makes it shine is its rare display of economic prowess outside of North America and Europe, oil powers like Equatorial Guinea excepted. Chile has forged strong foreign ties all over the earth strengthening its status as a South American economic gem. I myself contribute to its economy through frequent purchases of Chilean wine!

This success is related to its natural resources and ability to mine, process export and responsibly trade. Chile is truly the copper capital of the world, producing about a third of the earth's copper. Just more than a month ago, the world saw some of the forgotten costs of mining when a mine collapsed in Copiapó trapping 33 miners. Those miners remain trapped and it could be months before they are rescued. Today I learned that the mining company that owns the San Jose gold and copper mine is filing papers for bankruptcy. Let's hope the actions of the owners are not as sinister as they appear.

US news agencies widely reports the location of the San Jose mine as "north of Copiapó" or in "northern Chile". I wanted to see what a large gold and copper mine looked like from above. My first search on Google Earth was fruitless but falling back on the good old Google search engine I was able to find the location of the mine at GoGeometry.

The first image is a close up of the San Jose mine. The second shows its location relative to the City of Copiapó.



I find it interesting that the mine, which extracts tons of resources from inside the earth, resembles a scar on the earth's crust.



This isn't Chile's first experience with a long-term rescue. The Associated Press published a great story on survivors of the 1972 plane crash in the Andes carrying the Uruguay rugby team speaking to the trapped miners. While the circumstances are quite different, I think that hearing from someone who has been through such a strenuous ordeal will help.

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