Chile has some of the world's largest open pit copper mines. This mine, named Chuquicamata, is located near Antofagasta in northern Chile.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons

Industry in the Southeast Pacific region

What does industry have to do with all of the clouds that form over Southeast Pacific Ocean? While the connection might not be obvious to most of us, scientists in the VOCALS research project are especially interested in industrial processes and activities that emit particulates into the air known as aerosols. Scientists know that aerosols impact the formation of clouds. And because studying the clouds in the Southeast Pacific region is a key focus of VOCALS, sources of aerosols from industrial activity are an important part of this field campaign.

Industry in western Chile and Peru is largely based on local mineral resources, agricultural raw materials, and forestry. For the most part, industrial activity is concentrated in and around the urban areas and port cities including Santiago, Valparaiso, Concepcion, Iquiqu, Antofagasta in Chile and in Arequipa and Lima in Peru.

Some of the larger urban areas support a variety of industrial activities such as food processing and production, and manufacturing of textiles, clothing, leather goods, and furniture. Many of these activities emit pollutants into the air. However, the largest source of human produced aerosols in this region are from the mining industry.

Mining is the top economic industry throughout this region, with a significant concentration of active mining in northern Chile and southern Peru. The rich variety of minerals, including copper, nitrates, iron, manganese, molybdenum, gold, and silver are mined extensively. Important activities based on mineral resources include copper refining, production of nitrate products, iron smelting and steel production, and oil refining. Of these, copper mining and production is the most important economic activity, and this region is one of the world's largest copper-mining centers. In fact, the largest open-pit copper mine in the world is located in Chuquicamata in northern Chile, very close to the arid Atacama Desert.

Last modified September 19, 2008 by Sandra Henderson.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Introduction to VOCALS Science

How big of a 'laboratory' would you need to conduct experiments on a climate system? Well, that probably depends on which part of Earth's climate system you want to study. In the case of the VOCALS, the...more

Air Pollution Sources

Air pollution comes from many different sources. Natural processes that affect air quality include volcanic activity, which produce sulfur, chlorine, and ash particulates, and wildfires, which produce...more

Aerosols: Tiny Particulates in the Air

Aerosols, also called particulates, are tiny bits of solid or liquid suspended in the air. Some aerosols are so small that they are made only of a few molecules so small that they are invisible because...more

How Clouds Form

A cloud is composed of tiny water droplets or ice crystals that are suspended in the air. A series of processes have to happen in order for these water droplets or ice crystals to form into clouds in the...more

Clouds and Precipitation in the Southeast Pacific

The cold sea surface temperatures and warm, dry air of the Southeast Pacific region create the perfect conditions for the formation of the low stratocumulus clouds that are found in this region. These...more

Air Pollution

What do smog, acid rain, carbon monoxide, fossil fuel exhausts, and tropospheric ozone have in common? They are all examples of air pollution. Air pollution is not new. As far back as the 13 th century,...more

Atacama Desert

Chile's Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth. Much of the desert receives less than 1 millimeter (0.04 inch) of rainfall per year on average, making it 50 times more arid than California's...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA