Copper art

AFTER 102 years this mine lays claim to being the largest surface pit in the world and at 5km long, 3km wide and more than 1km deep it could well be right.

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However, Chuquicamata (pronounced chu-ki-ka-mata) near the Chilean town of Calama is much more than that. It is the site of the world’s oldest recorded mine accident, a mining equipment museum, a showcase to some Australian mining technology, home to a ghost town and, if all goes to plan, will become the world’s largest blockcave mine.

The Codelco mine, known colloquially as Chooky,  has been extracting and treating copper oxide ore, turning out 8500 cathodes per day. Each cathode is 99.95% copper. Its electrolytic refinery has a nameplate of 855,000t of copper.

To turn that out the mine needs to deliver 230,000t of ore each day.

The mining operation is a fairly vanilla truck and shovel operatio...