|Friday, 08 August 2008|
The Atacama zone of Chile’s Region III registered 8,518 mining exploration grants in 2007, an increase of 11.6 percent, surpassing the 7,044 grants in Antofagasta (Region II) for the first time ever. According to the latest Yearly Report on Chilean Mining, published by the National Service of Mining and Geology (SERNAGEOMIN), Atacama accounted for 22.7 percent of the Chilean mining exploration area, edging out Antofagasta’s 22.4 percent share.
The vast area and abundance of exploration opportunities in Atacama have made the zone the most active mining site in Chile. Atacama boasted 2,326,700 hectares (1 hectare equals 10,000 square meters) of mining sites in 2007, compared to Antofagasta’s 2,298,400 hectares, which dropped by 23 percent from 2006.
“Atacama’s large diversity and great potential from the geological standpoint is attracting exploration from all types of companies,” said Juan Carlos Guajardo, executive director of the Center for Copper and Mining Studies (CESCO). “Region III has large deposits of copper and gold as well as titanium and nonmetallic minerals. Because of this, Atacama is generating a lot of interest from a variety of miners.”
Alejandro Vío, national director of SERNAGEOMIN, believes that more junior mining companies are exploring Region III due to its great stock of mining sites, which is creating an important dynamic in terms of mining exploration.
Over US$7 billion has been invested in the region, according to government estimates. Among the main projects in the zone are Pascua Lama (Barrick Gold), Relincho (Tech Cominco), Caserones (Nippon Mining), El Morro (Xstrata Copper and Metallica Resources Limited) and Inca de Oro.
Next Sunday the National Society of Mining (SONAMI) will celebrate a “Mining Day” in the Atacama city of Tierra Amarilla, because of the leading role the area is playing in Chile’s mining industry. President Michelle Bachelet will attend the event, together with public and private authorities.