Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
109Trip End Mar 31, 2011
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We went for a tour of the mine which started with a brief look around the now-deserted town which had previously housed the 3,500 families of the miners. The town was 1km from the mine and new safety regulations in the 1990s had required a minimum distance of 10km, so the town had been abandoned and the workers relocated to Calama
The mine was unimaginably large - 4.3km long and 1km deep. Huge trucks drive up and down switchback tracks to the base of the mine to carry up rocks. The trucks had tyres 4m tall which cost $40,000 each, used 3 litres of diesel a minute and would crawl uphill loaded with up to 700 tonnes of rock. At the base of the mine these huge trucks were tiny specks. They carried their load to be processed into almost pure copper. 100kg of rock resulted in 1kg of copper. Much of the byproduct was sold, but there was also a huge pile of rock all around the mine, some of which had consumed part of the abandoned town.