In the centre of the Atacama desert near South America’s west coast lies the world’s largest open-cast copper mine. The mine was founded by Guggenheim Brothers at the beginning of the 20th century; it was nationalised in the early seventies.
The dominant feature of the image is an oval structure- the largest-ever depression in the Earth’s surface ever produced by human effort. On the bottom left margin of the pit lies the city of Chuquicamata, which is almost completely deserted because of the ever-expanding mining operations. Huge piles of mining debris appear as a monstrous fan shape (on the right). Depths vary between 600 and 1,000 metres.
A high-resolution digital elevation model from new TerraSAR-X data will provide very accurate measurements of the exact depths.
Credit: DLR; date: July 1, 2007, 23:00 UTC; original resolution: 1 metre (reduced image); mode: High Resolution Spotlight Mode, polarisation: HH.