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Coordinates: 24°16′S 69°4′W / 24.267°S 69.067°W / -24.267; -69.067

Location of the La Escondida and Chuquicamata copper mines in Chile
False color satellite image of Escondida (bottom) and neighbouring Zaldívar mines (top), April 2000

Escondida is a copper mine at 3,100 metres (10,200 ft) elevation in the Atacama Desert in Antofagasta Region, Chile.[1]


The Escondida deposit is one of a cluster of porphyry coppers in an elongated area about 18 km north–south and 3 km east–west[2] and is associated with the 600 km long West Fissure (Falla Oeste) system, which is in turn associated with most of the major Chilean porphyry deposits. A barren, leached cap, in places up to 300 metres thick, overlies a thick zone of high grade secondary supergene mineralisation of the main orebody, largely chalcocite and covellite, which in turn overlies the unaltered primary mineralisation of chalcopyrite, bornite and pyrite.[3]


At mid 2007, Escondida had total proven and probable reserves of 34.7 million tonnes of copper, of which 22.5 million tonnes is estimated to be recoverable. Total resources (including reserves) were 57.6 million tonnes of copper, of which 33.0 million tonnes should be recovered. Exploration continues.[4] As of 2019, the known resource is 21.7 Billion tonnes at 0.54 percent Copper including Escondida and adjacent deposits. The mine and ancillary industries contributes 2.5% to Chile’s GDP. [5]


Sulfide ore, which contributes 77% of the recoverable copper reserve, is crushed and milled in one of the two concentrators and the copper concentrate is separated out using froth flotation. Approximately 86% of the copper is recovered. It is piped down to the port of Coloso, where it is dewatered before shipping. Oxide ore, 4% of recoverable copper, is crushed, agglomerated and then acid leached in large heaps, and the copper is recovered from the leach solutions as copper cathode in a solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) plant. Recovery is 68%. The low grade sulfide ore contributes 19% of recoverable copper. It is also crushed and dumped on large heaps, but here the leaching occurs through oxidation induced by microorganisms. The copper is also recovered by SX/EW.[6]

In 2006, 338.6 million tonnes were mined (928,000 tonnes per day), of which 251.5 million tonnes were waste and oxide ore. Sulphide ore totalled 87.1 million tonnes or 239,000 tonnes per day. The two camps, San Lorenzo and 2000, cater to 7,000 people daily.[7] Esconidida's current capacity is around 1.4 million tonnes of copper production per year, making it the largest copper mine in the world.[8]

In 2005, Degrémont Industry was asked to install a new Sea Water Reverse Osmosis plant with capacity to produce 12 Million gallons of fresh water per day.[9]

Construction of work force accommodation camps and field offices are needed services in order to have the mine operating, on this note Tecno Fast in 2012 was hired to build the second phase of the respective workforce accommodation camp for Escondida Mine.[10]

BHP buys 3 TWh of electricity per year to operate the Escondida and Spence mines[11] (1.640 m elevation), where solar energy is more than 3.000 kWh/m2 per year.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Carlos Mata-Torres, Rodrigo A. Escobar, and José M. Cardemil (8 November 2018). "Techno-economic analysis of CSP+PV+MEDplant: Electricity and water production formining industry in Northern Chile". AIP Conference Proceedings. 2033 (1): 180007. Bibcode:2018AIPC.2033r0007M. doi:10.1063/1.5067179.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Yacimientos Metaliferos de Chile, Ruiz Fuller & Peebles, Santiago 1988
  3. ^ Mining-technology Escondida Copper Mine
  4. ^ BHP Billiton Annual Report 2007
  5. ^ Great Deposits of the World – La Escondida Porphyry Copper, Chile, updated October 17, 2019
  6. ^ Minera Escondida Annual Report 2006[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Minera Escondida Sustainability Report 2006[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "The World Copper Factbook 2020". International Copper Study Group (ICSG). Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Seawater Reverse Osmosis Services". 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
  10. ^ "Accommodation camps and offices". 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
  11. ^ Parkinson, Giles (22 October 2019). "BHP cancels coal contracts, goes 100 per cent renewables at huge Chile copper mines". RenewEconomy.

External links[edit]