Chile copper mines double as tourist attraction

Chile’s copper industry is going on show, with plans to open up much of the country’s mines to tourists.

In a move set to add to the country’s visitor numbers, next year 24 mines will open their gates in an initiative labelled the “Mining Tourism Route.”

Brainchild of the Antofagasta Regional Branch of the National Tourism Service (Sernatur) and with the backing of local authorities and mining companies, the tour will focus on the country’s northern region of Antofagasta.

Visitors will be able to get a close-up view  to some of the world’s largest mines, including Chuquicamata mine, located 1585 kilometeres north of the nation’s capital of Santiago.

From viewing areas, tourists will see the expanse of the mine and its massive machinery as well as the copper extraction and refinement processes, infosur hoy reported.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the work we are doing to everyone who visits us,” Claudio Olguín, manager of Codelco’s Ministro Hales mine said.

Currently, the only way of visiting an operational mine is by requesting a private tour.

There are 19 large mining developments in the Antofagasta region, 20 medium-sized, 540 small mines and 100 micro-mines, which work to mine 53% of Chile’s copper.

“We wanted to bring mining closer to the public through tourism,” Amanda Pérez, Antofagasta’s Mining deputy secretary, said.

“There’s a lot of potential to develop in this area.”

In Australia, public tours are available for several mine sites including KCGM’s Super Pit and BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam and Mt Whaleback mines.

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