Cobreloa is a relatively new club, having been founded on 7 January 1977. The name Cobreloa comes from combining the Spanish word for copper (Cobre), and Loa, after the province and the Loa River, the longest river in Chile, which is located near Calama and Chuquicamata, the world's largest open pit copper mining|mine.
The club was able to establish itself in Chile's top flight very quickly, earning promotion after its first season, where they have stayed ever since. Only four years after their foundation, Cobreloa reached the finals of the Copa Libertadores in 1981, losing in a third match to Brazilian club Flamengo. Cobreloa reached the Copa Libertadores final the following year, losing to Peñarol of Uruguay. The club also reached the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores in 1987.