Potrerillos of yesterday
The Potrerillos deposit was located in the desert of Atacama to 125 kilometers to the east of the port of Chañaral and to a height of 2,900 meters on the level of the sea. By 1906 the deposit was exploited in a traditional way by the Mining Company of Potrerillos, by Enrique Echeverría. When in 1910 William Braden moved away from El Teniente, his interest was concentrated in Potrerillos, acquiring in 1913 the deposit. Engineer Braden estimated that Potrerillos was an area capable of rivaling Chuquicamata. However, new drilling yielded disappointing results. Faced with such conclusions, Braden sold Potrerillos in January 1916 to the American conglomerate Anaconda Copper Company, which organized the Andes Copper Mining Company as its subsidiary to exploit the mineral.
In charge of the deposit was put to the engineer L.R. Wallace, who opted to mine the mine underground, through the system of sinking blocks. For the treatment of the minerals would raise a plant to benefit sulfides, and another of leaching, to treat the oxides. Also contemplated a thermoelectric plant located in the new port of Barquitos, that would be constructed next to Chañaral. Eight kilometers from the mine would rise the main mining camp, while the water would be brought from the Andes by means of a pipe. Finally, the transportation problem would be solved by constructing a railroad from the mine to the state railroad station in Pueblo Hundido, which in turn reached the port of Chañaral.
At the end of 1917 the first works began, those that in 1919 were already quite advanced. However at the end of that year, the copper market was affected by the post-war crisis, which led to the Anaconda to paralyze the work to a great extent. In 1925 the work was resumed under the direction of William Wraith, so that the following year the sulphide plant was ready, and in 1928 the leach plant. By 1929 Potrerillos was already in full operation, producing 73,800 tons of fine copper.
At the end of the 1940s the depletion of the Potrerillos deposit began. Facing this situation Anaconda Copper Company began an exploration program in search of some deposit near the metallurgical facilities in order to take advantage of the existing infrastructure. Finally, a few years after the deadly date, the Indio Muerto deposit was discovered, which would allow the Andes Copper Mining Company to survive as a manager of the new mineral that was rightly called El Salvador.
El yacimiento de Potrerillos estaba ubicado en el desierto de Atacama a 125 kilómetros al oriente del puerto de Chañaral y a una altura de 2.900 metros sobre el nivel del mar. Hacia 1906 el yacimiento era explotado en forma tradicional por la Compañía Minera de Potrerillos, de Enrique Echeverría. Cuando en 1910 William Braden se alejó de El Teniente, su interés se centró en Potrerillos, adquiriendo en 1913 el yacimiento. El ingeniero Braden estimaba que Potrerillos era un yacimiento capaz de rivalizar con Chuquicamata. Sin embargo, nuevas perforaciones arrojaron resultados desalentadores. Frente a tales conclusiones, Braden vendió Potrerillos, en enero de 1916, al conglomerado norteamericano Anaconda Copper Company, la que organizó la Andes Copper Mining Company como su filial para explotar el mineral.