The Earth From the Air
Waste from the copper mine at Chuquicamata, Chile
This giant scallop shell is made of earth. A crane deposits the earth in successive, slightly curved lines giving the appearance of sheets of sand lined up side by side. The earth is extracted with the copper, but it is separated from the ore by sieving. The metal is refined in the Chuquicamata foundry that, thanks to newly installed equipment, can now filter out 95 percent of the sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 97 percent of the arsenic that the process releases. A 1992 law aimed at reducing air pollution has required Codelco-Chile, the state-owned company that runs the mine and its facilities, to invest tens of millions of pounds to modernize them. This has not, however, prevented the company from increasing production capacity; indeed, starting in 2004, the Chuquicamata mine will have ramped up to produce 750,000 metric tons of copper per year, compared with 630,000 metric tons in 2001.
unused from 2002