Chile has over a third of all the copper reserves in the world. This abundance of copper has turned it into Chile’s major export, far outpacing other agriculture products.
Where is Chile’s Copper?
Copper has been mined in northern Chile since before pre-colonial times and before Chile was even a country. The mineral-rich northern territory of Chile was won from Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific in the late 1800’s.
The northern Atacama desert is home to some of the world’s largest copper mines like Chuquicamata. Although northern Chile has the majority of Chile’s copper mines, the large El Teniente mine is found in central Chile, south of Santiago.
Nationalized Chilean Copper
During Chilean president Salvador Allende’s rule, Chile nationalized the nation’s copper mines and formed the National Copper Corporation of Chile (CODELCO).
The state-owned firm CODELCO is the world’s largest copper-producing company, with recorded copper reserves of 200 years. This means that Chile has enough copper to mine for 200 more years.
Economic Impact of Copper
Since Chile’s copper mining is nationalized, the profits and dividends from copper production go to benefit the state.
Due to copper’s dominance as Chile’s primary export, the country’s economy follows a boom-and-bust cycle that varies with the price of copper on the world market.
Recent boom times with high copper prices pulled in large surpluses for the Chilean government. They wisely saved a lot of this money that they are now using to pay for economic stimulus during recessionary times.