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Mining is the main regional economic activity; this wealth is based on metallic minerals such as iron, copper, silver, gold and molybdenum. According to regional government reports, in 2007 this sector contributed with 46, 9% of the regional PIB, representing the 80, 4% of the region total exportations, being its main markets Europe, Japan and the United States.

This region and the Coquimbo region are the only producers of iron, which is of great importance for its applications in construction steel. Its main deposits are:

El Algarrobo, at 45 km from Vallenar, and those near Chañaral, such as La Suerte, El Carmen and the Hermanita. There are also some deposits southwards Copiapo, such as Los Cristales and Cerro Negro and others near Huasco, such as Huanteme, Bandurrias and El Mirador.

Copper is represented by Codelco´s El Salvador division in charge of the Inca underground exploitation mine and the open air mines Campamento Antiguo and Damiana Norte.

Operations begin in 1959 and it is said that they will end their works in 2011 due to the low mineral purity. During the 2008 first trimester, it diminished in 22% compared with the same period of the previous year, decreasing from 18.000 to 14.000 tons.

Regarding the non metallic mining, this is a rich zone of mineral rocks such as barite, marble, calcium carbonate, quartz, phosphorite and dolomite. The latter is a rock exclusive from this region.


This activity has been growing in the last three decades, becoming the second most important in this region, due to the microclimate of the valleys and the river basins of Copiapo and Huasco rivers.

In 2007 this sector contributed with the 14,3% of the regional PIB, according to the regional government.

Traditionally, agriculture was concentrated in wheat, corn, barley and lucerne crops. However, in the last decades, crops have diversified, adding up products such as tomatoes and grapes. More than 90% of the latter is exported as dessert grape and the rest is used for manufacturing pisco, mainly in the Alto del Carmen zone.

Likewise the Azapa valley (Arica and Parinacota region), this zone is positioned as an important olive producer, especially of the Sevillian variety. The hectares producing this variety are estimated to cover near the 45% of the national total.

Besides, there are other products cultivated in this zone, such as almonds, guayabas, mangoes, papaws, lúcumas, custard apples, pistachos, nuts, apricots, citric, prickly pears, artichokes and asparaguses.

The fishing activity is carried out mainly at the Caldera coasts, extracting such products as the northern Scallop (Argopecten purpuratus) which concentrates the 80% of the regional production. Japanese oysters are also extracted.

Regarding fishing, the most important landings are small anchovies, hakes, mackerel and Spanish sardines, The 93, 1% of this extractions is fishmeal bound, which is exported later to other countries.


The gas and vapour thermoelectrically powered plants are the basis of electrical power generation, in this region,   supplying mining and industry as well as the population.

According to INE figures, in 2006 the total production of energy reached 2.600,708 MW/h (megawatt/hour).

The main thermoelectric plants in this zone are Guacolda, Huasco, Diego de Almagro and El Indio.

Human geography

The population of this region grew with a 1% rate during the last inter census period (1992-2002).
In the educational level, the pre basic area grew at a 2, 8% rate (1992 census), a 4,4% (2002 census), registering a variation in such period of 79, 8%.

 The population of 5 years and more that has attended the basic education, reached a 41, 5% (2002 census), which compared with the 1992 figures (49, 1%), represents a decrease of 3, 1%.

The elementary education concentrates a 37, 7% (2002 census), reporting an increase of 21, 6% in relation to the 1992 one, when this group represented a 35,5%.

The alphabetic level on the 10 years old population or more, in the inter census period, passed from 95,7% in 1992 to a 96,4%  in 2002.

While, poverty in this region decreased from an 18, 4%, in 2003, to a 3, 4% in 2006. (Casten 2006 survey). In terms of indigence, it was registered also a decrease, and in the period 2003 and 2006, it lowered from the 8, 1% to a 2, 8%.


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