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.