TIMELAPSE: Chile's massive open pit mines

- Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TIMELAPSE: Chile's massive open pit mines

How long does it take to dig a big hole in the ground and build one of Chile's massive open pit mines? Using Google Earth's new Timelapse application, BNamericas takes a look at 30 years of Chile's vast copper deposits. Click on "play" to activate the Timelapse feature.

Codelco's Chuquicamata

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While the mine has been operating for more than a century, the Timelapse since 1984 not only shows the continued expansion of the Chuquicamata pit – the largest open cast mine in the world – but also the construction of two new mines in and around the district: Radomiro Tomic (north of Chuquicamata, pictured) in 1997, and Ministro Hales (south of Chuqui) in 2013.

Chuquicamata is in the processing of becoming an underground mine, while state copper giant Codelco is still evaluating the RT Sulfuros expansion at Radomiro Tomic.

The entire Codelco district produced 862,600t in 2015.

Escondida and Zaldívar

Minera Escondida, operated by BHP Billiton, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, having processed more than 2Bt of ore through leaching and flotation. Escondida is the world's largest copper mine by output and produced 1.15Mt in 2015.

Just north of Escondida is Zaldívar, the 50:50 JV between Barrick Gold and Antofagasta Minerals. The mine started operations in August 1994. In 2015 Antofagasta purchased 50% of Zaldívar for US$1bn.

Zaldívar produced 103,400t in 2015.

Collahuasi and Quebrada Blanca

Construction of Collahuasi, a joint venture between Anglo American and Glencore, started in 1996, while commercial operations began in April 1999. The mine is located at 4,400m above sea level, and comprises two deposits, Ujina (right) and Rosario (center), plus a 203km mineral duct to transport concentrates to be shipped to the Patache port south of the city of Iquique.

Output in 2015 was 455,300t.

Just left of the Rosario deposit is Teck Resources' Quebrada Blanca mine. Founded in 1989, it began operations in 1992. The company is currently evaluating its QB2 expansion project to mine the hypogene deposit below the existing orebody.

Production was 39,000t in 2015.

Los Pelambres

Los Pelambres, Antofagasta Minerals' flagship asset, started operations in 1999 with processing capacity of 210,000t/d. The company has submitted a US$1bn expansion project which will include a desalination plant to secure water for any further expansion.

Los Pelambres' output was 375,800t in 2015.