CODELCO, El teniente, Esmeralda

Give the importance of copper to Chile’s economy, a visit to El teniente has to be part of the global experience.  So how was your experience at El teniente?

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25 Responses to “CODELCO, El teniente, Esmeralda”

  1. Perry Says:

    Today was a dramatic contrast to the beauty of the vineyards yesterday. We traveled an amazing distance underground to check out the frequently computerized operations of the mine. It was fascinating to see and understand how the operation is set up. They process tens of tons of rocks each day.

    I enjoyed our walk through Sewell Town, where miners used to live. The colorful buildings that spread up the hill were so cheery compared to the brown landscape. I managed to get a copper souvenir, a ring that also includes Lapis Lazuli, another natural treasure of Chile.

  2. Jaclyn Says:

    Today’s tour of the cooper mine was a perfect end to a fantastic week. It was amazing to see first hand how one of Chile’s most important industries operates. I was amazed at how much was done by computerized ‘robots’.

    After our tour we were able to walk around the town were all the miners used to live, Sewell Town. The town was made up of beautiful colored buildings. It was a especially beautiful with the mountains in the background.

  3. Brandon Says:

    The visit to the CODELCO, El teniente, Esmeralda mine was one of my favorites on the trip. This was a look at the industry that is the heart of the Chilean economy. After a 2 hour trip into the barren Chilean mountains we arrived at the offices of the mine where we received a brief lecture and changed into our mining gear. I made some new friends at the mining office :), and then we traveled another hour to the actual mine. I was amazed at the sheer technology that is involved in the process. There are cameras and computer operated drills at each shaft, monitoring systems that track the mine trains through the mine. In addition, security is the number one priority. This particular mine is a 24hr operation converting 1% of each ton excavated into copper. With over 40,000 tons a day excavated, roughly 400 tons of copper a day are produced. Wow!

  4. Sophannaka Says:

    I have never had a chance to see the real mining before, so this was my first and probably only one time in my life to visit the real copper mining. It was interesting to see the real operations of one of the most important industries in Chile. This was the most tiring day in this trip. But it was a good experience and it’s amazing how they use robot in their operations.

    The Sewell Town was cute. The colorful buildings surrounded by mountains were very beautiful 🙂

  5. Travis Says:

    Talk about an eye-opener. This, like the shipping visit, was a chance to see just how much goes into an industry we spend very little time thinking about. I couldn’t help but notice how every computer screen was a 32″ Sony or Samsung LCD…which aren’t cheap. Obviously this is a sophisticated business.

    The town was unique as well, and hearing about the history was very interesting. During our visit to the chapel, our guide explained the huge rift between laborers and managers during the 20th century…and if I understood correctly, religion was what finally brought them together.

    It was a LONG drive to get there, but for such a unique experience I think it was well worth it. I just recommend a coat for travelers next year…it’s very cold!

  6. Sean Says:

    Visiting El Teniente copper mine painted a clear picture of how important copper really is to the Chilean economy. The mine actually seemed like a city deep within the Andes mountains. There were literally offices, meeting rooms, two-lane roads, and even traffic signals within this dark mountain city. A few employees of the mine met with us to discuss the importance of the mine, their day-to-day duties, as well as safety requirements while in the mine. We then had the opportunity to sit down at a couple work stations and help break up the rocks. All of this work is done remotely, so a mine worker can sit in an office with a computer monitor and a “video game” controller in order to complete his work… no need to be right in the mining area. I even heard our guide say that some of the equipment can be controlled from stations as far away as Canada or Asia!

    After leaving the inside of the mine, we took a trip to an old mining town called Sewell, which is located right next to the mine. In the 1960s, 16,000 people lived in Sewell; however, this town is no longer inhabited. When the copper mine was nationalized, the town had to be closed since the government did not have the funds necessary to maintain it.

    During the 45-minute van trip back to the base of the mountain, our tour guide gave us rocks to keep as souvenirs. The rocks had metal flakes in them that I originally assumed was copper, but I was later told that it is actually fool’s gold.

  7. Shadi Says:

    I knew how important copper was to Chile, just on based on our reading and research prior to the trip. However, I never would have expected the process to be so technically sophisticated and automated. Driving to the mine with the oh-so-fashionable over-size orange jackets and sexy helmets increased my anticipation of what we were to expect. I couldn’t help but think about the workers in the show, Fraggle Rock. Would I see men banging against the mine walls with their tools? Pushing carts filled with rocks? Would everyone have black dirt on their faces from walking through the mines all day? Hardly, instead, it seemed more like a scene from my undergrad days when the computer science guys would sit and play video games all day. The men controlled the tools through a chair with an attached ‘joy stick’ and a tv that showed what rocks they were breaking through. There were plasma screens on the walls and screens that depicted which carts were full (red) and those that were ready to be filled. All were computer controlled. Men did not actually drive the machines. It was a pretty exciting sight to see.

    We then walked around the mining town of Sewell and got to see some of the old building that were inhabited in the 60’s. My favorite part was going to the small bright blue church. In the front there were hundreds of small hand-written notes containing prayers. The visit was much more than I had originally expected.

  8. Edyth Says:

    Today was another fun filled day, we learned a little about mining, got our safety uniforms on, and began touring the facility. I almost forgot to mention that mining is huge in Chile; I think they produce about 60% or something of the worlds copper. Chile is in general known for their agriculture, copper and mining. It was pretty cool seeing the facility and watching the Chileans work but I realize that I have no interest whatsoever in mining.

    One fun fact today was that while we were touring the facility, I didn’t realize early but miners were staring at me. Some of them ended up taking pictures with me. Our tour guide pointed out that the miners rarely see or in some cases had never seen black people and so I stood out like a bean in a pot of rice :).. It was pretty cool. When we had lunch with the miners, I got more stares and I realized that it was going to keep happening while we were in Chile so I needed to get used to it.

    After lunch, we went to visit the mine museum, went to see the church in the miners town, which was impressive especially because they had a cross with Jesus made out of stones. I thought that was clever and very fitting.

  9. Noriyuki Says:

    Visiting the copper mine was really interesting event for me. I really felt the other side of Chile (one side for me was absolutely wine country) today. I am glad I was here to have learned that Japan is the largest importer of copper from Chile. Mining industry is almost extinct in my country Japan where we have little natural resources. Today’s visit had a huge impact on my perspective about natural resources.

  10. Byong Says:

    From shipping industry to wine industry, and now to copper, looks like we’ve covered most of the major industries in Chile.

    Going into the mine, and getting so deep into it was very interesting. And the first glance of the copper mountain?, was a grand site. But to be honest, it was a bit too dusty and I wonder how they could cope with heavy traffic and the dust inside mine every single day.
    Lunch actually was quite good, and I guess it was more traditional food than I have tasted during the trip. Don’t know why I kept the boots on till the end of the tour, but it was a bad choice.

    All in all it was different experience that I would have never experienced if it weren’t for this class, also I got to keep the “fools gold” as a souvenir.

  11. Sarah Says:

    The mine was actually really interesting. I don’t think I would ever chose this as an activity if I was travelling on my own, but I learned a lot. Copper is such a large portion of their economy, so the visit was a must. I particuarly enjoyed the outfit that included a bright orange jacket, heavy tall boots, a hard hat equipped with a light, a breathing mask, a belt with gadgets, and protective eyewear. You really have to see the pictures to get the full effect. Once we arrived in the actual mine I understood though why all of the gear was necessary. We were literally inside the massive mine with all of the miners!

    After an extensive tour we headed to the cafeteria for lunch! Next we had a tour of the now empty mining town. It looked like a scene out of an old western film to me – a small church, brightly colored buildings, etc. It was a long day, but a great end to our week in Chile – now on to RIO!!

  12. Chris Says:

    The copper mine was a cool experience. It’s pretty incredible that they extract 40,000 tons of ore each day, 1% of which is copper. Gives a nice appreciation for the scale of the Andes; after 20 years of modern extraction techniques, they have still hardly scratched this surface of this mountain.
    Seeing the reaction to Edyth gives a good impression of the homogeneity of Chile. Odd experience for someone from the “melting pot” of the world.
    I was glad that we got to eat at the copper miners’ cafeteria. After the extravagance of yesterday, this is closer to the cultural experience that I am seeking. I will say that I pride myself on my appetite for anything and everything, but that brown slop was hard to stomach! 🙂 All part of the experience, though.
    One thing that stood out from the mine visit: they actually let me control one of the robots. I remember thinking that “process” and liability would never let this happen in the States.

  13. Andrew Says:

    Wow, the mines were not what i was expecting. It was much more high tech than I had imagined – with all the robots and those futuristic chairs. The most memorable part of the tour was driving in our bus into the mountain. It was a little unnerving to think that there was a billion tons of rock above you, and we are driving right into the heart of it. I asked the superintendent why they make the workers come all the way into the mine, if they could just operate the robots from their homes and the answer he gave was interesting. He said that the operators need to realize what they are operating and get in the mindset that they are actually mining a real mountain. Otherwise, it would seem too much like a video game.

  14. Liliana Says:

    The tour in the copper mine may be the most special visit I have ever had. I remembered Diego asked me whether I liked the copper mine visit. I thought for a while trying to find an answer that can express my mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was not what I had expected to have a tour in an oversized orange jacket and mask with heavy belt/gears and weighty rubber boots. Moreover, the combination of dusts, the cold, and the smells inside the mine was probably the last thing in the world I would ever want to have in a trip. On the other hand, it was such a unique experience for me to be able to stand so close to a mine shaft that is operating, and to see advanced technologies being used in a cave-like office…The answer I gave Diego? It’s a once-in-a-life-time kind of experience.
    In the museum we visited after lunch, there was a board showing that Taiwan is ranked 9th in the consumption of copper exported from Chile, while Japan and South Korea are ranked 1st and 3rd. How interesting to see the connection between these countries. Maybe the world is much flatter than I thought after all.

  15. Paulo Says:

    It is not easy to describe the experience of actually entenring inside a mountain a seeing on site how Codelco extracts the copper from it. It is like we were entering a different world, and all the security equipment we had to wear during our visit just enhanced this impression.

    Having lunch with the workers at the mine cafeteria was also an interesting experience. I is one of the times when you can really feel how is the daily life of chilean workers.

    We finished our visit with a tour through what used to be the city where the first mine workers used to live and to the museum that shows how was their life back in those days. I must have been a unique experience to live in that place and in some way isolated from the rest of the world.

  16. Vikas Says:

    This was a very interesting trip deep into a copper mountain. Inside I sometimes felt like I was on some kind of ski trip, as the ground was very wet and it was colder than usual. Their drill stations made the workers look like fighter pilots from some Star Wars type movie. I still remember seeing light at the end of the tunnel when we finally exited the mountain.

  17. Eunseok Han Says:

    Copper is the most important commodity in Chilean economy and Chile produces 40% to 45 % of the copper supply in the world. We headed to see the biggest copper mine in Chile. I should describe what I’ve experienced in the copper mine as enormous, scientific, and disciplined. First of all the copper mine was so huge. I never imagined that inside the mine there would be so many offices, roads, and even vending machines. What I imagined was that hundreds of miners walking through the dark and narrow cave as they drilled the mine to produce. I was totally wrong. Also, the inside of the mine was so modernized and every state of the art technology machineries and equipments could be found there. Every operation is processed in a computerized way with full automation. Finally, I could feel that keeping rules are very important in this huge underground city because any small mistake could cause a big disaster here and I felt that every worker is so disciplined and it reminded me of when I was in military service.

    The Sewell town that we visited after mining tour was a contrast, which is so peaceful and colorful. At the mine museum, I found the interesting story that Japan and Korea are the biggest importers of Chilean copper. I believe it’s partly due to the Free Trade Agreement that Korea and Chile entered several years ago. The small and pretty church in the town that we stopped by was a nice ending, where we could wrap up the tour and take the holy experiences to home.

  18. Hikaru Says:

    This visit is the best company visit in this trip. Copper mine is much bigger than I expected. Lengths of Tunnels are surprising for me. In the museum, I found that Japan is the largest copper importer in the world. I thought this is because almost 50% of cars are composed of coppers. I also noticed that in Santiago we saw many European descendents. On the other hand, in the copper mine, most employees are local native people.

  19. Summer Says:

    I love long bus rides because it means long nap time! 🙂 I originated the idea of bringing pillows on the bus to make the bus ride that much more lush! The visit to the copper mines was really interesting cause I didn’t realize we were going IN the Andes! I loved getting dressed up, especially with the light on the hard hat, and I was referencing Zoolander a few too many times (cough couch, I think I got the black lung pop). I was really shocked that the mines were so modern (robots… the future). There were no people with pick axes, but people in a control room with video game-like chairs that were controlling things from afar. It was really interesting, though I had to keep my claustrophobia in check since we were so far from day light! I thought it was pretty funny when the miners wanted to take a picture with Edyth since they hadn’t seen an African American women before and she was like a celeb! I imagine many of these guys haven’t even been to Santiago, let alone other countries. The cafeteria lunch was tough to swallow, literally, but I did my best to appreciate what they eat on a daily basis. It was an interesting day, but a long one and I really enjoyed the long bus ride home and 2 hour nap 🙂

  20. Kentaro Says:

    The visit to the Codelco’s mine site was my most favorite one during the trip as I am interested in energy industry. I was impressed with their attention to the safety and the technology used for the mining. The mining itself was controlled from operating room to manage efficiently and safely. In addition, although I knew that many project sites had many kinds of facility for the community such as school and library, I did not know that it had even the church and meeting rooms even in the mountain. The museum there also helped me understand the mining process taken in that site. As Codelco is the biggest mining company in Chile, I believe knowing its operation is useful for my future job!

  21. Yung-Chieh Says:

    I only joined the first half tour because I had a bad stomachache. >”< Anyway, it is still a precious experience. Now it seems easy because the workers use robot to operate and find copper. However, I can not imagine how workers did thier jobs 150 years ago. Befire we had lunch in employees’ restaurant, several guys tried to ask where were we from and Noriyuki tried to translate what they said for us. How friendly they are!!! (Spcial thanks to Noriyuki)

  22. Gaurav Says:

    We went to see Mina El Teniente, one of the largest copper mine in the world. Chile accounts for 40% of the copper produced in the world. As we reached their office, we were given a brief presentation on the copper mining business. We had to be dressed like a miner with boots, helmets, glasses and a lamp on the helmet. We were taken on a tour inside the mine where we saw the rocks being broken and processed in wine. There were very sophisticated machines, computer terminals and cameras to monitor the entire mining process. I played with the joystick and broke some rocks into the furnace.

    After the mine, we went to the Sewell town, where the miners used to live. We visited a museum where some copper artefacts were laid out. The journey back from the wine was very picturesque and the tour guide gave a brief commentary of the places around. It was a fantastic end to the first part of our global trip.

  23. Gaurav Says:

    We went to see Mina El Teniente, one of the largest copper mine in the world. Chile accounts for 40% of the copper produced in the world. As we reached their office, we were given a brief presentation on the copper mining business. We had to be dressed like a miner with boots, helmets, glasses and a lamp on the helmet. We were taken on a tour inside the mine where we saw the rocks being broken and processed in the mine. There were very sophisticated machines, computer terminals and cameras to monitor the entire mining process. I played with the joystick and broke some rocks into the furnace.

    After the mine, we went to the Sewell town, where the miners used to live. We visited a museum where some copper artefacts were laid out. The journey back from the mine was very picturesque and the tour guide gave a brief commentary of the places around. It was a fantastic end to the first part of our trip.

  24. Jason Says:

    Today’s trip was quite unique. First we visited Mina El Teniente, the world’s largest subterranean copper mine. On contrast to my impression of the open-pit copper mine, the whole place was like an underground high-tech base operated by accurate control and management. Then we headed to one of the World Heritage site, Sewell town. What impressed me most was the story behind the small church: The Christ made with rocks brought from the mine was the perfect representation of the diversified and congruent society it used to be before abandoned. Finally, when we headed back to Santiago, one thing happened on the highway that really caught my attention. When our bus was approaching the toll station, some people came into view beside the booth trying to sell stuffs to the drivers and passengers. I’ve never seen such scene before because it’s dangerous to walk on the highway. The whole-day trip gave me a chance to see several faces of the working class people in this country, a precious experience to look at the country with a balanced, but more positive perspective.

  25. Erin Says:

    Although this visit was very fascinating and another one that peeked my engineering interest, I cannot imagine working in a place like El Teniente. All I could think about after we met the fellow that had been there for around 30 years was what his lungs must look like. I also wonder how the jobs there really affect people over time. Being underground in that mine felt like a whole other world.

    My favorite part was where the gravel and stone were being dropped into what looked like a spice grinder. The pendulum being used to grind the stones down to smaller sizes was absolutely massive. I still wonder how much it weighed, what it must have taken to install it, and how humans ever dream up such devices.

    It is interesting that, in the mine, they are constantly moving to new areas as they finish mining certain spots. It must be an endless job to build and design the infrastructures, such as roads, tunnels, train tracks, etc, that allow them to continue to extract copper from the mountain. In addition, the fact that they have been mining so long with an appearently endless supply of copper was something that was hard to wrap my mind around,…..until we went back outside for lunch. The Andes were enormous. Their size was something you could almost feel even with the tiny piece that we saw. I only wish I had had a window seat on the flight to Chile so I could have gotten a birds eye view of them from the plane.

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