Calama

Overview

Introduction

In the heart of the Atacama Desert, 976 mi/1,574 km north of Santiago, the drab mining town of Calama, Chile, depends on one of the world's largest open-pit copper mines (the mine itself is 10 mi/16 km away, in Chuquicamata) to keep its economy going. It's also a gateway to the archaeological, cultural and natural attractions of San Pedro de Atacama.

Formerly owned by the U.S. Anaconda Copper Company, the 2,460-ft-/760-m-deep mine is now state-owned. Open for tours, the pit is an imposing sight, but Chuquicamata itself is a ghost town, as the Codelco state copper company has moved all employees to Calama because of pollution concerns.

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