Britain's dirty money: How the loose change in our pockets is costing the earth [Mail Online]
The town has become a ghost town after Codelco, the government company that runs Chuquicamata, used the land to dump waste material from the giant open-pit mine. The company was forced by environmental laws to move the population away from the hazardous emissions of arsenic and sulphur dioxide.
It's invasive in the extreme, it scars the landscape, it destroys the water table and it pollutes the earth and the local wells. It is destroying one of the most beautiful and unique places on Earth. Look at a photograph of the Atacama before the mines came here and then look at the area now.
'From the air the desert is unrecognisable - the oases are gone, the wildlife is gone, the wells are gone. This is too high a price to pay.'
Water has become such a problem in this part of the world that even Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, with all their money and resources, can no longer squeeze enough from the ground to feed the demands of the mine. They have recently invested £150 million in a desalination plant at Escondida. The aim is to pump seawater from the Pacific Ocean over a distance of 125 miles and up 10,000ft to satisfy the mine's needs.
Miguel Stutzin, president of Code, Chile's oldest environmental group, says: 'This is the apparent solution to our water crisis and what damage will this do to the coast and to the foothills of the Andes where the pipeline will penetrate, and how will it replace all the regional water these mines have used? Will it replenish the desert towns? Of course not.'