Traditionally Chile’s tourist attractions have been located above ground, such as the valleys of the Atacama Desert, Patagonia’s Torres del Paine mountain peaks and the country’s endless beaches, which enjoy sunshine, fresh air and brilliant views. However, Chile’s mining industry will soon be welcoming tourists underground to explore the wonders of the copper mines.
Twenty-four of the country’s most famous mines will be open to the public as of 2015 in what is to be called the “Mining Tourism Route.” The brainchild of the Antofagasta Regional Branch of the National Tourism Service (SERNATUR), the route has been designed in collaboration with mining companies and local authorities.
The tour will focus on the northern region of Antofagasta, which is home to 19 huge mining operations, 20 medium sized, 540 small mines and a further 100 micro-mines. Collectively, the region’s mines extract 53 percent of Chile’s total copper production.
“It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the work we are doing to everyone who visits us,” said Claudio Olguín, manager of Codelco’s Ministro Hales mine. As it stands, the only way to visit a fully operational mine in Chile is by requesting a private tour.
It is not only the mines tourists will have to look forward to. The Mining Museum in the nearby city of Calama, 11 miles south of Chuquicamata, will also be open for business. Tours of the surrounding towns, including Mejillones, Sierra Gorda and San Pedro de Atacama will be available, as well as the country’s largest flamingo reserve.
Chile is one of the top copper producing nations in the world and the country’s economy relies heavily upon the metal, which is exported all over the world. Recently Universidad Católica predicted Chile’s mines not only possess the largest reserves in the world, but enough copper for at least another 89 years production.