The Escondida mine is located 105 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Antofagasta in northern Chile and represented 9 percent of the global copper market at the time of the project. Aiming to increase ore processing capacity, our customer developed the Escondida Phase IV project.
Bechtel provided engineering, procurement, and construction services for the expansion of the world’s largest copper mine, Minera Escondida, completing the billion-dollar job in 2002. Our scope of work included building a new concentrator, upgrading crushing and material-handling systems, and constructing a 6.2-mile (10-kilometer) long conveyor system.
The project was executed by a joint venture between Bechtel and Sigdo Koppers (now known as Ingeniería y Construcción Sigdo Koppers), the same team that successfully completed the mine’s Phase 3.5 expansion in 1998.
Meeting high expectations
The project team achieved a fast-track construction schedule that called for completion in 22 months, rather than 24 months. In addition, Bechtel successfully:
- Hired and trained 10,000 employees
- Built camp facilities to house and feed more than 5,000 workers at nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level near the mine
- Coordinated the project schedule with an ongoing mining operation that runs nonstop every day of the year
- Innovated by applying new automation technology employed in South America for the first time
We also subsequently completed two major efforts at the mine: the Organic Growth Project 1 and the Escondida Water Supply Project.
Economic mainstay for Chile
Located in the arid Atacama Desert, Minera Escondida has played a vital role in the Chilean economy since its first shipment in 1990. Escondida accounts for:
- Nearly 10 percent of Chile’s exports
- More than 2 percent of Chile’s gross domestic product