Calama (Chile), Oct 18 (EFE) .- The Chuquicamata copper mine, Codelco of Chile, is immersed in a mega project that will transform the world's largest underground reservoir and prolong its life over half a century.
The project, which will invest 4,200 million dollars (about 3.7900 billion) and work about three thousand people, is a marvel of engineering and includes unique processes and technologies in the mining industry.
"Converting an open pit that leads exploited over a hundred years in an underground mine is unique in the world, there is a challenge equivalent today of the scale of what Codelco is doing," he told Efe Victor Perez, Manager of Business Planning and Market Development Company.
Nestled in the northern region of Antofagasta, in the Atacama Desert and near the city of Calama, Chuquicamata mine is a flagship state-owned Codelco and for many years was mining at the world's largest open pit.
The site, which last year produced over 340,000 metric tons of copper, was one of the stalwarts of Codelco during the last decade, when the super cycle of commodity prices brought him millions in income to the Chilean public coffers.
The price of copper has fallen and Codelco has implemented severe austerity plan. But late last century, long before it reached the current situation, the company began to study the possibility of converting Chuquicamata into an underground mine.
Engineers discovered that under the current pit pampers there are at least 4,300 million tons of ore.And the Chuquicamata underground project, which will be operational in 2019, aims to exploit 1.760 million tons of copper ore and molybdenum up to 2058, equivalent to 140,000 tonnes per day.
The huge amount of copper reserves that lie underground and other operating factors led Codelco to conclude that the best alternative was an underground operation, which is unusual in the world of copper, told Efe Edisson Pizarro, director of Innovation and Applied Technology of the project.
"Transportation costs are increasingly high. For the depth of the pit, each truck has to travel about 20 kilometers to go, carrying mineral and out," said Pizarro, an expert in underground mining that has spent four years working on the project Chuquicamata underground.
It has also affected the sustained decline in copper grade, which is the concentration of minerals in rocks and the material is removed.