Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Colours of the desert - Antofagasta to Copiato

Antofagasta is a mining town.    

The magazines on the hotel table say it all. The guests in the hotel are mainly men.

Antofagasta is the driest city in the world with maybe 1mm rain per year. The water patterns on the ground may be ancient. Apparently there was no rainfall in the Atacama region from 1570 -1971. No wonder people don't bother about the holes in their roofs. No leaky homes here.

Big red utes fill the hotel garage and are very common the road.

My latent chemistry began to resurface. Sodium nitrate 'salt petre' was extensively mined in Chile until the Haber process was developed in Germany in the 20th century - with dire consequences for the mining industry in Chile.
Copper mining is the major mining activity now. Copper makes up 70% of Chile's exports. The 'Los 33'  mining accident in August 2010 was about 45km from Copiato.
Later my hand began to itch with a remembered acid burn when I saw this conc. sulphuric acid tanker. I was glad when we passed it.

The valley that hosts Copiato is an oasis.
Here the competing demands for water are evidenced by dying vineyards as growers succumb to the temptation of the mining company's offers for water.Mines or vines?

Location:Antofagasta to Copiato: 569km 5449km from Quito, 33,231km from Vancouver

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