Thirty CBS students. One professor. Two massively delayed flights, one misrouted checked bag, several sunburns from pre-trip travel, a couple of minor illnesses, and multiple required items from our packing list lost or forgotten in transit to Chile. Despite all of this, GIP Patagonia assembled in Santiago on January 6th.
Our first day was a whirlwind, with 3 site visits in 11 hours. The day began at Los Bronces mines, 66 km outside of Santiago. Owned and operated by AngloAmerican Chile, Los Bronces produces 300 tons of copper per year, almost 20% of all copper produced in Chile. Chile, in turn, produces 30% of the world’s copper supply. Though copper prices have been low in recent years, the growth of the sustainability industry, which is heavily reliant on the metal, will create an influx of demand, driving up prices as mines strive to keep up with supply.
Los Bronces is a huge and risky operation. Before ascending to the mine, each student had to submit to a brief medical exam to ensure that they could safely travel to a higher elevation (4000 m- an almost 3500 m difference from Santiago’s altitude). With clean bills of health, we collected our extensive safety gear- jackets, hard hats, protective goggles, and gloves- and took a bus approximately 20 minutes up the mountain. We all lost our cool as we passed massive machinery with wheels at least 9 ft in diameter and everyone reverted to an age where we wondered at big trucks. “LOOK AT THAT DUMP TRUCK!,” someone would yell, followed by someone else pointing wildly and saying, “Is that a digger or a Transformer? Can we drive one?” Wisely, none of us was granted permission to operate the equipment, but we marveled nonetheless.
The view from the top provided great perspective on how open-pit mines function, with big steppes of rock cut out of the mountain. Currently, most mining in Chile is open-pit, but by 2025, 50% of mining will be conducted underground.
After Los Bronces, we jetted back to Santiago to meet with the Metro de Santiago. Only 40 years old, Metro de Santiago stands in stark contrast to the New York City Transit system. Completed ahead of schedule, Metro serves over 2 million riders per day. Metro continues to expand, with Line 3 almost at completion, and construction on Line 7 underway. Each new subway line saves residents between 60 minutes to 2 hours in their commute. Metro also operates over 200 electric buses, on par with China as the largest fleet of electric buses in the world. Citizens of Santiago consistently rank Metro as one of the most indispensable services in their lives, alongside Google and WhatsApp.
Rounding out the day, we journeyed to the Casona Veramonte Winery. Sandwiched between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Casona Veramonte produces 5 different wines- approximately 6 million liters per year. Casona Veramonte The group enjoyed a wine tasting and dinner.
Throughout the day, there was a growing sense of anticipation and anxiety about the main event: hiking in the Patagonian wilderness for 10 days. What difficulties should we expect? Will we be able to handle the trip, mentally and physically? How transformative will this experience really be- or will we be altered at all once we’ve returned to creature comforts?
One person commented, “I think the point of doing this trip is to find out who you really are in stressful situations. But what if you don’t like that person?” Starting January 9th, we’ll find out.
Many thanks to AngloAmerican Chile, Metro de Santiago, and Casa Blanca for their generosity and hospitality during our trip.