On May 18th, 1915, Ramón Barros Luco, president of Chile at the time, opened the Chuquicamata Copper Mine, the biggest open-pit mine of the world. The inauguration of this mining office brought along the settling of the nearby camp two years later, which accommodated 25,000 inhabitants. They were workers and their families who came to live in the surroundings of the deposit located 15km (around 9 miles) north Calama city.
The name of the mine comes from the Chuco indigenous people, the original inhabitants of the area. It means “limit of the Chuco land” or “Spearhead”. The Chuco people were the first ones to discover the copper settlement in Atacama, but this place was only exploited sporadically until the opening of the mining office, which systematized the extraction by the beginning of 20th century.
Although the mine is still active, the camp closed in 2007, after the process of family relocation started in 1992. Following this, emblematic buildings were left behind, such as the Teatro Chile, the Club Chuqui and the Parroquia El Salvador. Today, they represent the active social life that once took place in the town.
Last monday, more than 50,000 people gathered to celebrate the century of both the mine and the camp, which was declared this year’s January as Typical Zone by the Consejo Nacional de Monumentos (National Monuments Council). This recognition will facilitate the conservation process of the area that today is an important part of history and the country’s heritage.