The Chile Advantage - Mining

Progressive legislation and a healthy investment environment have made Chile the mining capital of Latin America, and one of the world’s leading mining nations, producing almost a third of the global copper output and a wide variety of other minerals.

The mining sector is one of the pillars of the Chilean economy, accounting for around 10% of its GDP and more than 50% of its exports. Mining is mostly concentrated in the Atacama Desert region of northern Chile, which is sparsely populated. Products other than copper include gold, silver, molybdenum, iron and a series of industrial minerals products including lithium (key statistics sourced from Cochilco 2018):

  • Highly productive Andean geology receptive for a wide variety of "World Class" deposits - not least for copper and precious metals
  • World's top producer and exporter of copper by volume at 5.5Mt fine Cu in 2017 (more than double that of 2nd place Peru) – representing 27% of world production
    • Chile is host to 4 of the world’s top 10 copper mining districts – 7 of the top 20
    • World’s largest reserves of fine copper at > 170Mt (double that of 2nd place Australia)
    • World’s largest producer of SX-EW copper – 1.6Mt fine Cu in 2017 (more than double that of 2nd place Democratic Republic of Congo) – representing 44% of world production
  • World's 2nd producer of lithium (2017 – 14,100 metric tons), 2nd producer of molybdenum (2017 – 63,000 metric tons), 6th producer of silver (2017 – 1,318 metric tons), 21st producer of gold (2017 – 37.9 metric tons)
  • The Atacama Desert of northern Chile, is sparsely populated and mining is the principal activity
  • Transparent and secure legal framework for securing exploration and mining tenement
  • One of Latin America's fastest growing economies
  • Stable political and fiscal environment that encourages foreign investment 
Doing Business in Chile

Chile is ranked as a high-income economy by the World Bank and is considered as Latin America's most stable and prosperous nation, leading Latin American nations in competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption. Although Chile has high economic inequality, as measured by the Gini index, it is close to the regional mean.

Chile tops the list in Latin America for political security, fiscal policy, transparency and business atmosphere, and has one of Latin America’s most stable and prosperous economies, following 30 years of stable growth and democracy. The 2017 Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies ranked Chile as the 8th most attractive jurisdiction in the world (out of 91 jurisdictions) for mining investment, and the highest in Latin America.

Chile has the 2nd highest GDP per capita in Latin America (US$15,000 – 2017). The 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Report (World Economic Forum) ranks Chile 33rd (out of 137 countries), topping all Latin American countries. It is one of only two Latin American members of the 36 country Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

According to the Heritage Foundation (2018), Chile’s economic freedom score is 75.2, making its economy the 20th freest in the 2018 World Index, and ranked 3rd among 32 countries in the Americas region, behind only Canada and the USA. Chile also has one of the lowest levels of corruption among developing nations – ranked 26 out of 180 countries worldwide, and only 2nd to Uruguay in Latin America (2017 Transparency International Perception Index).

Chile is also a safe country in which to work and live – ranked 33rd out of 160 countries studied (SafeAround Danger Rankings). Anecdotally, working in Chile from a safety perspective is like working in most other developed nations.

Exploration in Chile

Chile was named as one of the top jurisdictions for investment by mining companies (Fraser Institute – 2017), ranked 8th out of the 91 jurisdictions surveyed. Chile ranked 7th in the Best Practices Mineral Potential Index, which incorporates best jurisdictional practices as well as geological potential to determine the attractiveness of exploration investment. It is the highest ranked country in Latin America.

Mining companies spent US$603M on exploration in Chile in 2017 (S&P Global / SNL Metals & Mining), of which more than 80% was spent by major mining companies. This places Chile ahead of Peru and Mexico, with the three countries accounting for 68% of exploration investment in Latin America. Grassroots exploration accounted for 26%, while spending on brownfield activities represented more than 40%. The remaining 33% was spent on advanced exploration. Copper exploration received the highest share of investment (>50%) followed by gold.

Quick Facts

Chile is long and thin, stretching for roughly 4,300km north-south, and is bounded to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the east by the high parts of the Andean Mountain Belt – including some of the highest mountains in the Americas. Chile's maximum width (E-W) is about 360 Km, but the country averages widths of less than 200 Km. The Capital of Chile is Santiago, located in the central part of the country. Some key statistics (CIA – Chile Fact Sheet):

  • Population:                     17,925,262 (July 2018 est.)
  • GDP (nominal):                 US$277 billion (2017 est.)
  • GDP (PPP):                     US$452.1 billion (2017 est.)
  • GDP / Capita (nominal):        US$15,000 (2017 est.)
  • GDP / Capita (PPP):               US$24,600 (2017 est.)
  • Real Growth Rate:                             1.5% (2017 est.)
  • Exports:                          US$69.23 billion (2017 est.)
  • Trade Surplus:                  US$3.14 billion (2017 est.)
Chilean Governance

Chile has a republican system of government with three separate and independent branches – the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch.  The executive branch is headed by the president who is elected to a single four-year term by popular vote.  The president is the head of state and the government.  The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Chile which has a 38-seat Senate and a 120-member Chamber of Deputies. 

The judicial branch is independent and includes the Supreme Court of Chile, 16 regional courts of appeal, a system of military courts and a constitutional tribunal.