Santiago, the city that copper built, takes flight

April 8, 2008

rtr1z84m.jpgSpeeding from the airport to the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Santiago, you get the impression that tunnelling comes naturally in Chile. It should. The country is the kingdom of copper and home to many of the world’s largest mines. There’s Escondida (right), an enormous open-pit mine that can be seen from space. At El Teniente (pictured below left in a company Web site photo), thousands of mineworkers commute every day several kilometres deep undEl Tenienteer the Andes.Hundreds of copper industry executives landed here this week for the annual CESCO and CRU copper conferences. With copper prices near record highs, Chile is rolling in money from its mines, which produce about a third of the world’s copper. The wealth isn’t showy in conservative Chile. But you see it everywhere. Santiago is clean and orderly (and spectacularly located at the foot of the Andes.) You feel safe jogging or strolling in its many parks. There is little overt poverty, unlike elsewhere in South America.

The trip downtown from the airport now takes about 25 minutes. Four years ago, before the sleek Costanera Norte freeway tunnel opened, travelers had to endure a bumpy, meandering hour-long cab ride through endless neighbourhoods. The city is sprouting new highways like Nororiente to its suburbs. Americans can feel at home, a shopping mall boasting the highest tower in Latin America, Costanera Center, is going up in the heart of Santiago’s new financial district – locals call it “Sanhattan.”

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