Our day started bright and early with a leisurely walk through the city to Codelco, a major mining corporation here in Santiago. These walks are always enjoyable, because every day there’s a new sight to take in. By now, we are veterans of Chile’s metro system—Dirrecion San Pablos, stop Universidad de Chile would lead us to our destination. Much of the city here has that “developed city feel”—in fact, much of the buildings are very reminiscent of New York. Along the way, we discovered an interesting Café known in Chile as “Café de Piernas” or Café of Legs. A blend of Starbucks and Hooters best describes it: women wear short skirts and serve coffee…interesting, to say the least. While mining isn’t the “sexiest” industry (at least not to us American students), those thoughts changed immediately once we feasted our eyes upon the interior of Codelco’s headquarters. Everything (literally) is made of copper, including the walls, some of the art, and the corporate emblem. If the interior did nothing else, at the very least it conjured a certain curiosity about this company, its operations, its processes, and the applications for the copper it extracts. Senor Crisitan Foix, a representative of Codelco, was our speaker. We were proud to hear that Senor Foix, on behalf of Codelco, considered it an honor to host us, and tell us a little bit about the past, present, and future of the company.
Codelco is huge, in every sense of the word. To say that the company’s market position is dominant would be an understatement. In terms of profit, global reach, GDP contribution, and many other metrics, Codelco is a leader. But the advent of rising cost, lower grade ores (which requires extraction of more minerals to obtain the same quality of copper), aging mines, and increased investment expenses to open new mines, Codleco faces many threats to its longevity. Their solution? Codelco hopes that as these costs rise, they will be able to find cheaper alternatives—inputs—to production to counter the effect on profit margins. They’ve also invested heavily in new projects (new mining locations); in fact, the company over the next few years will take on more investments than at any other point of its history. An example of these investments includes digging deeper into the earth at one of the locations located in the Andes Mountains—about 300 meters deeper to be precise, where over 415,000 tons of copper lie waiting to be exploited. Codelco estimates to have on hand about 70 years worth of reserves in terms of mineral resources. The average life of most mines is about 15-20 years. But Codelco holds fast to its license to exist—its mission—to be a global industry leader. And that mission fuels them to best the environmental impacts and financial threats that lie before them.
Our day ended with two highlights.1) A trip to the end of town where we were given the opportunity to see some of the most antique and unique, hand-made Chilean souvenirs at Pueblos los Dominicos—a small shopping district; and 2) a chance to indulge in some Gelato treats at a local shop about 5 blocks from our hotel—a sense of home. Life lesson: “el cono simple” is quite enough ice cream for one person…no necesito doble!
Until next time…Buenas noches!