April 25, 2013
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up everything in sight
TOURIST shops sell polished copper trinkets. Building after building sports a bit of copper cladding. Even the taxi-drivers in Santiago, Chile?s capital, know the price of copper. It is not hard to guess what the country?s biggest export is.Copper has been kind to Chile. It provides 20% of GDP and 60% of exports. Thanks to it, Chile?s economy is expanding by nearly 6% annually, while inflation and unemployment are enviably low. Poverty rates have tumbled; public services are mostly good. Chile has other strengths, such as agriculture, tourism and even high-tech. But small shifts in the copper price make headlines.The copper mines themselves are far from the capital. Escondida, the world?s biggest (and the source of over 5% of global supplies) is a 1,300km (800-mile) trek north, in the middle of the Atacama desert. BHP Billiton, the world?s biggest mining company, operates two gigantic pits there. The deeper one is 3.9km from side to side and 650 metres from brim to bottom. Trucks as big as houses, working non-stop, haul 1.5m tonnes of rock out of Escondida each day. Managers may drive...
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