QueensU Mining Eng Field Trip To Chile

Trip Start Jul 21, 2005
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Trip End Jan 12, 2006


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Monday, September 19, 2005

Update 9: Chile, South America
(SEP 9 - OCT 5)

It would be needless to say that going to Chile was the best field trip I have ever been on - it doesn't get too much better that this. This will be a long read just so you know.
Next update won't be for some time now so if any of you want to contact me you can by my contact details in the last update. Photos are posted for entire trip so far so check them out by following the link somewhere on this page...

For those of you who don't know, Chile is a really long and narrow country located on the west coast of South America. It is about 200km wide being boarded by the Andes Mountain Range to the east and there is also a smaller coastal mountain range (it's still bigger than anything in Australia). Santiago, the capital of Chile is located in the basin between these two ranges and it was quite freaky coming into land as we were going through the clouds and could see mountain peaks poking through all over the place.
It is unique climate they have here that allows some of the best agricultural products to be grown/made here including fresh fruit, vegetables and wine.
We arrived in Santiago on Tuesday morning around 7am local time (after flying through Dallas, Texas) and we headed to the hostel where we would be staying. One of the students traveling with us was from Peru and we later found out the hostel we were in was in one worse areas of town according to his relatives there, but anyway I didn't have any trouble.

Once we had loaded our stuff off the bus and into our rooms we headed out to the centre of town where we all split up and got food and this was fun trying to order when I didn't recognize a single word on the menu. I stuck close to Alberto (the Peruvian guy) who could speak Spanish and we managed to find a place that served some traditional Chilean food which was awesome. We wandered round a lot in the afternoon and we were so surprised at the amount of stray dogs around - apparently there is something like 40,000 in the country. Anyway, in the evening we went to this amazing restaurant just down the road from the hostel whose name is translated to "The fat cow." The guys had also discovered quite quickly that beer was sold here in litros (litres) for quite cheap - the equivalent of $1.50for a litre and back in Canada you buy a schooner for $5 at the bar - they were all determined to get their moneys worth! So litro became the word of the trip for a lot of the guys!

The next day we were into the school part of the trip to Codelco's Andina mine about 2hours north east of Santiago. (Codelco is the state owned copper company producing 20% of the worlds copper and holding 40% of current reserves?). I was more amazed with the scenery than anything else - we were up in the Andes mountain range at 3100m elevation and the snow was still on the mountain tops and it was just amazing. So we couldn't go all the way to the pit as the fine weather was causing the snow to melt and there was a potential for avalanches and rockslides across the road - they have an annual 20m of snow at this place each year! But what we did get to see was their underground mill - that's right - the crushing and processing complete in a series of enormous underground openings spanning what I would guess to be 20-25m wide, 80m long and 25-30m high. It was awesome to see. We were so hungry by the time we left which was about 3pm but once off the mine site we were taken to an amazing French restaurant just nearby and had orderves and a 3-course meal with white/red wine paid for by the company - definitely the best mine lunch I have had so far.

The next day we were off to El Teniente also owned by Codelco - the largest underground mine in the world producing 132000t of copper ore a day. It had 8 main production regions - it was really 8 mines in one mountain including a block cave the capacity of north parkes mine there. I think the best thing about it was the fact we were going underground and yet we had to drive upwards into the mine!
In the evening we headed out to an area of town called providencia or something - basically the upper class restaurants and touristy area where we were swarmed by waiters trying to get us into their restaurants as piranhas would swarm something that came into their water. They were offering us free beer - turned out to be about 50mls in a wine glass, amongst other things like free girls. We had people trying to solicit us into all the clubs and strip joints too. Once they realised that it was our Peruvian friend making the decisions on where to go as he could speak Spanish they all started going for him - it was quite amusing. I had to get money out that evening so I took out a big 100 G - that is 100k pesos or AUD $250 and I was so pumped when I saw the receipt saying had over half a million in my bank account. Pity it wasn't in Aussie dollars. By the time we finally got home it was another long day and we were thankful for a later start the next morning.

On Friday we went to the Codelco head office to hear a presentation from one of the executives there who did his PHD at Queens, and then on to a project management company called Bechtel - I had never heard of them but they are one of the largest project management companies in the world, before another amazing 3-course meal paid for by Bechtel and then we went onto Sandvik to see their manufacturing plant assembling LHD loaders, before heading out to an Irish bar in the evening called the Geopub and having all our food and drinks paid for during the evening by some mining association there in Chile.

Saturday was our second free day and after the last few breakfasts at the hostel we decided to try our luck elsewhere. After catching the subway up 5 stations - which was amazingly clean - on our way to the zoo we ate at this cafe where my eggs came out still floating in oil - they use so much of it here - but what can you expect when the country's heritage is Hispanic. While we were waiting for our food we had a rather interesting encounter with this drunk guy who came up to our table with a pool cue in one hand and had 3 pairs of underpants on his head - I think he wanted to swap a cigarette for an almost empty bottle of Pepsi. our waiter eventually got rid of him where he proceeded to stand in the middle of the road with cars going either side of him... yep you get those nuts in every city. Speaking of nuts - there were there vendors everywhere roasting nuts and then selling then and they smelled amazing and tasted even better. Well a bunch of us went to the zoo and yeh, having just seen many of these animals in the wild in South Africa it was kind of boring. One cool bit was when this guide was walking around with some bird on his arm and I told my mate to take a photo of me next to it and yeh as he took the photo the bird flapped is wings out and I was bent over backwards trying to avoid it - see the pic.

Later that day we headed back to Santa Lucia - this amazing castle thingy on a hill that had fountains and all kinds of beautiful things to see. Once again see the photos they describe it much better than I can. we then headed over the road to a market place where I had bought an alpaca wool jumper earlier in the wk and I bought a couple of extra things while I was there and that evening we went back to the fat cow place to eat again for another amazing meal for cheap!

On Sunday we spent a good 10-12 hours traveling about 1000kms north to a place called Copiapo. The difference in scenery was amazing with Chile being in a very temperate area with stuff growing everywhere to Copiapo - which was very close to the water but was basically a desert. We stayed at a hotel this time and it was certainly a lot nicer than the hostel in Santiago. The next day we visited La Coipa- a placer dome gold mine at 4260m elevation and as much as you think you'd be ok - the altitude really does get to you. Your reaction time is a lot slower. We had the mine paramedics following us around with oxygen the whole day just in case. The real difference in the climate was noticeable and I thought I might have well been on the moon. It was really dry and they are lucky if it rains at all. This is seen in their mine planning but I won't go into it as the bulk of you will have no idea what I am talking about. The next day we were off to Monteverde - an Anglo American mine located in the coastal mountain region which was cool to see their innovative on-off dump leaching processes and we got to see a blast as well. That night out in town some of the other students bumped into another Aussie guy - Nick. The Canadians were like hey you have to meet our Aussie. As I got talking to him I found out he lives in Beecroft in Sydney - about 2 minutes from where I live back home - it is certainly a small world.
Wednesday we were so happy as we knew we were having our last bagged breakfast for the trip - it was pretty much a ham and cheese sandwich every day of the trip - it is pretty much the staple diet here. We went to a small underground copper mine Punta Del Cobre owned by Pucobre and it was a short trip from the hotel. The cool thing about this place was standing looking up into an 80x80x100m high open stope with little to no ground support in the mine whatsoever. We finally had an early finish and we headed back to the hotel to laze around the pool all afternoon and having another company sponsored 3-course meal by Phelps Dodge in the evening.
The next day we went to the Candelaria mine owned my Phelps Dodge which was one of the best visits of the trip - short, sweet and mostly in English - ie not having to wait for a translation on everything. In the afternoon we headed back to the La Serena/Coquimbo area about 4 hours drive back towards Santiago. We booked into stay at another hostel which used to be a French consulate or something a long time ago and it looked really good from the outside and had 20ft ceilings on the inside. Although once in our rooms we were all quite appalled at the state of the place - it stunk of paint lacquer or thinners or something and had a single bathroom between 10 of us with no lock and a rusted out iron tub that was the basis for the shower - only one guy ventured in to have a shower. We went out that night and had the best feed ever at this BBQ place where we had beef, pork, chicken and I think lamb with sausages and potatoes as well as wine for very cheap - about AUD$8pp for sooooo much meat- yum yum yum!
The next day we had another short and sweet visit to the Carmen de Andacollo mine (Aur Resources) - an open pit copper mine close to La Serena. Throughout the day many of us had approached George - the professor with us from Queens University about our accommodation and our concerns over our health, safety and security regarding the place. He was already thinking the same himself and had instructed his wife (who is Chilean) to search for some alternate accommodation for us. He had to keep to group together as there were enough of us who were prepared to move to a nearby hotel. We went to the beach at La Serena that afternoon while the accommodation stuff got sorted out and had another amazing meal at a beachside restaurant - it was funny watching the Canadians at the ocean - they were just like little kids discovering stuff for the first time- one guy hadn't been to the beach since he was 3 or 4 - I guess it was a little like me wanting to throw snowballs at everyone whenever I got the opportunity...
We found out later in the afternoon that we had new accommodation almost right where we were in these beautiful beachside villas - it was great. Incidentally I also got watch the sun set over the ocean for the first time in my life and it was amazing as there was this massive cross on the hill nearby - the Millennium cross it is called - it just added to the scenery. The country is like 95% catholic here too - there seems to be road side shrines everywhere.
In the evening we unsuccessfully tried to go out to a discotheque as they are called but without going into the whole story we somehow ended up at an all ages club - we didn't even bother going inside. I think the best thing of the night was on the walk home were two of the girls were being whistled and called at by a passing car who proceeded to crash into the car in front of them at the stop sign.
I pretty much spent all day on the beach playing Frisbee and swimming and later in the day a dead sea lion got washed into shore - it was really sad. It looked like it had suffocated to death by a couple of those plastic cables you get around boxes or even around pallets or bricks or something. It really stunk.
To be honest I was pretty much ready to go home by this time. The school part of the trip was dragging on a bit and yeh basically all my clothes were dirty and I was down to recycling them so yeh - I just wanted to go home - well as much as Canada is home at the moment.
Sunday we left the villas and headed back towards Santiago and we stopped in this town one our way to the mine we would be staying at, and I saw the most brilliant rainbow I have ever seen in my life - it was so defined and we could see both ends of the rainbow about 300m apart - see the pics.
Monday I went to an underground limestone mine owned by Lafarge Resources which was really cool to see and we then later toured their kiln for turning limestone into cement. I think the best bit about it was that we were seeing something different from copper - copper mines are getting pretty boring by this stage. In the evening, George - (the professor who worked in Chile for 8 years) showed us how to play Chilean pool which was cool - it was a cross between 9-ball and snooker and it was fun.
Tuesday - so excited to know we would be leaving that afternoon, we couldn't wait to get out of the place. We just wanted to get the mine visit out of the way that day and get to the airport. I was very happy to walk into the airport later that day.
I took use of the duty free facilities to buy myself a 1L bottle of Baileys for US$20 as a birthday present to myself - that's right - I turned 21 on the 5th. Well anyways the flights were reasonably good except for the turbulence we got on the second flight from Miami to Toronto - caused by the cyclone just off the coast of Florida.
It was great to be back in Kingston and that evening I went out to dinner with my house mate for my birthday and just a quite evening at home.

Well hope you are all well, and thanks to my family and friends for those birthday messages!
Peace Out
Nath
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