Monday, June 9, 2008

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Located at an elevation of 3 050 m (10 006 ft), Chile's Escondida Mine is an open-pit copper, gold, and silver mine and is also the largest copper mine in the world. Isolated in the barren and arid Atacama Desert in the country's far north, the Escondida Mine relies heavily on external well fields for the water used in its mining operations. Unlike similar mining operations, however, Escondida has a redeveloped tailings impoundment, which appears on the 1989 image as a white patch in the lower left corner. Impoundments of this type help reduce water consumption and enhance water conservation, two areas where mining activities typically fall short. The Escondida Mine also minimizes the impact of its operation on the environment by means of a 170-km-long (106 miles) underground pipeline that carries copper concentrate slurry from the mine to the port of Coloso. This underground scheme is efficient and ecologically sound, as the copper travels downhill without disrupting the environment. The 2003 image shows how the Escondida Mine has grown and expanded while at the same time continues to minimize negative impacts from its mining operations on the environment.

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