Although there are numerous famous copper mines in the world, like Grasberg in Indonesia, Escondida and Chuquicamata in Chile, the world’s biggest underground copper mine is Chile’s El Teniente.
El Teniente is an underground copper mine in the Chilean commune of Machalí in Cachapoal Province, Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins Region, near the town of Sewell, 2,300 m (7,500 ft) above mean sea level in the Andes. Mining at El Teniente is reported to have started as early as 1819. Kennecott Copper Corporation ran the mine through a subsidiary company up until the Chilean nationalization of copper and the formation of the state owned copper mining company Codelco who currently operates the mine. It is reported as “the world’s biggest underground copper mine”, and is the largest of Codelco’s operations.
According to legend, EL Teniente mine was discovered in the 1800s by a fugitive Spaniard official, with exploitation beginning in 1819. The best ore was mined manually in what would be called the Fortuna sector, and transported by animal. In 1904 William Braden (an engineer from New York) and E.W. Nash formed the Braden Copper Company, built a road for carts and a concentrating plant.
In 1967 the Chilean government bought a 51% stake in the mine and founded Sociedad Minera El Teniente, and the mine expanded its production to 63,000 t (69,000 short tons) per day. Braden became a subsidiary company of Kennecott Copper Corporation, and on July 11, 1971 with the Chilean nationalization of copper under President Salvador Allende and the formation of the Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (known as Codelco), El Teniente became a state owned operation.
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