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Miss Chuquicamata, The Slag (2012)

Chuquicamata is a former mining town in the Desert of Atacama purposely designed by Guggenheim brothers for mining workers in early twenty century. The town developed next to the Chuquicamata mine and followed patterns of other mining settlements in the U.S.A. such as Butte, Bisbee and Tyrone. Both the architectural formations and urban design are conceived in a typological form. While reducing costs substantially by increasing efficiency, the standardisation and mass production of the architectural foundations of corporate towns can be seen as a reflection of the mechanised nature of the modern mining industry. In 1923, in a highly profitable operation, the Guggenheims sold the Chuquicamata mine to Anaconda, another US multinational mining corporation who controlled it until 1971 when it was nationalized by Salvador Allende.

In 2007, when high levels of pollution caused by the expansion of the mine threatened public health, the town was closed by its current owner CODELCO, the Chilean state owned copper mining corporation. At the time of closure, the 25,000 workers living there were relocated to the nearby city of Calama where new neighborhoods were built. To secure continuing profitability, the new urban settlements followed the same strategies of social segmentation and urban standardization.

The photographic work is in relation to a satellite view of the mining town of Chuquicamata, captured by the Photogrammetry Services of the Chilen Air Force (SAF). It is also accompanied by an X-Ray Ray examination of a copper specimen collected during the photographic expedition, conducted by Dr Norman Moles at the Geology Department of the University of Brighton.

Download essay accompanying this piece – English version
Descargar texto que acompaña la pieza – versión en Castellano

Filed under: Copper Geographies

About the Author

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Im a Chilean born, London based visual artist and researcher. My practice explores and reflects on the geo-political power dynamics in mineral industries, geographies and historical narratives. My interconnected research projects involve extensive historical research, fieldwork, the collection of archival materials, new photographic documentation with large format cameras and diverse forms of mapping. My work develops using site-specific working methodologies.

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