Cerro Verde, a mine located 30 kilometers away from the center of Arequipa, Peru is owned and operated by Freeport-McMoRan, a Phoenix company. Cerro Verde, with its 6,000 workers from Arequipa, is one of the largest mines in the world with two concentrators.
At first glance, the three open pits of Cerro Verde, which span a total of 3 kilometers, instill a great feeling of awe. The pictures of the mine don’t do its scale justice. The vast emptiness of the open pit really makes you feel small in this massive world we live in. Upon seeing the vast pit Jason Teetsel stated, “Wow, that’s a pretty big hole.” The tour guide at Cerro Verde explained to us that the mine is fully self sustainable and that they re-filter the wastewater of Arequipa and re-release the water back to the Chili River.
We were surprised about the very small yield of product for the large amount of material processed. Throughout the tour of the mine, the sun was always beating down on us. Even through the bus windows, it felt like Arizona in the summertime. It was interesting to see how long and complex the whole process of mining and refining copper ore was. The copper goes through multiple separation phases, including going through a water tank with lime juice. Even though it is an American owned mining company, Cerro Verde still helps the Arequipa by providing jobs, protecting its surrounding environment, and recycling water.