Copiapó is a city in northern Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, located about 40 miles east of the coastal town of Caldera
Caldera, Chile
Caldera is a port city in the Copiapó Province of the Atacama Region in northern Chile. It has an excellent harbor, protected by breakwaters, being the port city for the productive mining district centering on Copiapó to which it is connected by the first railroad constructed in Chile.-Geography...

. Founded on December 8, 1744, it is the capital of Copiapó Province
Copiapó Province
Copiapó Province is one of three provinces of the northern Chilean region of Atacama . Its capital is the city of Copiapó.-Geography and demography:...

 and Atacama Region
Atacama Region
The Atacama Region is one of Chile's 15 first order administrative divisions. It comprises three provinces, Chañaral, Copiapó and Huasco. It is bordered to the north by Antofagasta, to the south by Coquimbo, to east with Provinces of Catamarca, La Rioja and San Juan of Argentina, and to west with...


Copiapó lies about 800 km north of Santiago
Santiago, Chile
Santiago , also known as Santiago de Chile, is the capital and largest city of Chile, and the center of its largest conurbation . It is located in the country's central valley, at an elevation of above mean sea level...

 by the Copiapó River
Copiapó River
Copiapó River is a river of Chile located in the Atacama Region. Starting at the confluence of the Jorquera and Pulido rivers, the Copiapó flows for only 2.5 km before receiving the waters of the Manflas River.-References:...

, in the valley of the same name. In recent years, the river has dried up due to mining and agricultural activity in the region. The town is surrounded by the Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert is a plateau in South America, covering a strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains. It is, according to NASA, National Geographic and many other publications, the driest desert in the world...

 and receives little rain (12 mm per year). The population of Copiapó was 9,128 in 1903, 11,617 in 1907 and, as of 2002, there are 129,091 inhabitants.

Copiapó is in a rich silver and copper mining district. It possesses a bronze statue of Juan Godoy, discoverer of the Chañarcillo
Chañarcillo is a town and mine in the Atacama Desert of Copiapó Province, Atacama Region, Chile, located near Vallenar and 75 kilometres from Copiapó. It is noted for its silver mining. The town grew up after the Chañarcillo silver mine was discovered on May 16 1832 by Juan Godoy...

 silver mines in the 19th century. The Copiapó-Caldera railway line, built in 1850, was the first one in South America. The first section between Caldera
Caldera, Chile
Caldera is a port city in the Copiapó Province of the Atacama Region in northern Chile. It has an excellent harbor, protected by breakwaters, being the port city for the productive mining district centering on Copiapó to which it is connected by the first railroad constructed in Chile.-Geography...

 and Monte Amargo was inaugurated on July 4 of 1850 in honour of the nationality of William Wheelwright
William Wheelwright
William Wheelwright was a businessman who played an essential role in the development of steamboat and train transportation in Chile and other parts of South America...

, the American business man responsible for the project. The original wooden railway station is now a National Monument.


The town was christened San Francisco de la Selva de Copiapó or Saint Francis of the Jungle of Copiapó, due to its lush vegetation. Prior to Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 occupation, the area was inhabited by the Diaguita
The Diaguita, also called Diaguita-Calchaquí, are a group of South American indigenous peoples. The Diaguita culture developed between the 8th and 16th centuries in what are now the provinces of Salta, Catamarca, La Rioja and Tucumán in northwestern Argentina, and in the Atacama and Coquimbo...

 people under the rule of the Inca Empire
Inca Empire
The Inca Empire, or Inka Empire , was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century...

. The earliest archaeological remains of human activity in the Copiapó Valley
Copiapó Valley
Copiapó Valley is located in Copiapó Province, Chile.Vine from that valley is labeled with "Valle de Copiapó"....

 have been dated at ten thousand years BP.

Copiapó was, until the annexation of Antofagasta
Antofagasta is a port city in northern Chile, about north of Santiago. It is the capital of Antofagasta Province and Antofagasta Region. According to the 2002 census, the city has a population of 296,905...

 and Iquique
Iquique is a port city and commune in northern Chile, capital of both the Iquique Province and Tarapacá Region. It lies on the Pacific coast, west of the Atacama Desert and the Pampa del Tamarugal. It had a population of 216,419 as of the 2002 census...

 during the War of the Pacific
War of the Pacific
The War of the Pacific took place in western South America from 1879 through 1883. Chile fought against Bolivia and Peru. Despite cooperation among the three nations in the war against Spain, disputes soon arose over the mineral-rich Peruvian provinces of Tarapaca, Tacna, and Arica, and the...

 (1879–1883), Chile's northernmost city and main mining city.

On 5 August 2010, a copper/gold mine collapsed, leaving 33 miners trapped underground
2010 Copiapó mining accident
The 2010 Copiapó mining accident, also known as the "Chilean mining accident", began in the afternoon of Thursday, 5 August 2010 as a significant cave-in at the troubled 121-year-old San José copper–gold mine. The mine is located deep in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest and harshest...

. The miners survived underground for 69 days until their rescue on 13 October 2010, a record period of time.


According to the 2002 census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 of the National Statistics Institute
National Statistics Institute (Chile)
The National Statistics Institute of Chile is a state-run organization of the Government of Chile, created in the second half of the 19th century and tasked with performing a general census of population and housing, then collecting, producing and publishing official demographic statistics of...

, Copiapó had 129,091 inhabitants (64,922 men and 64,169 women). Of these, 125,983 (97.6%) lived in urban area
Urban area
An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.Urban areas are created and further...

s and 3,108 (2.4%) in rural areas. The population grew by 27.9% (28,184 persons) between the 1992 and 2002 censuses.

According to the same census, the religious affiliation in Copiapó, is the following:
  • 75.97% Roman Catholicism
  • 10.74% Protestantism
  • 1.29% The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • 1.25% Jehovah's Witnesses
  • 0.04% Judaism
  • 0.03% Islam
  • 0.02% Orthodox Catholicism
  • 3.56% Other
  • 7.10% None, atheism or agnosticism.


Copiapó has a diversified and potential economy, but mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 is the largest economic activity.

The Copiapó Basin has a great deal of copper ore, mined by companies such as Minera Candelaria, which extracts copper near Tierra Amarilla
Tierra Amarilla, Chile
Tierra Amarilla is a Chilean commune and city in Copiapó Province, Atacama Region. According to the 2002 census, the commune population was 12,888 and has an area of 11,191 km².-Demographics:...

, a neighboring commune. This generates a need for transportation, light industry, and services. "Small mining" represents over 30% of the production. The copper obtained by pirquineros (miners) goes to the copper smelter at Paipote.

Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 is the second largest source of income in this area. It consists largely of grape production, with olives, tomatoes, avocados and some citrus fruits also playing a part.

Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

: Copiapó has mainly light industry, and some medium industry such as the INACESA plant and Paipote copper refinery.

While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

 is growing in Copiapó, largely old and new small and medium enterprises. Downtown Copiapó activity mirrors Copiapó's progress Some native enterprises have grown rapidly in the last decade such as the Albasini and Don Álvaro chain-stores. Free-market policies along with a higher demand and better economic expectations have encouraged the arrival of big, national enterprises such as the supermarkets Deca (1999), Jumbo (2005), and Lider (2006).

Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 in Copiapó has been developing in the last years. An example of this is the new Casino, and the new infrastructures hotels had to invest in, due to the excess of demand by domestic and foreign tourists.

Significant attractions of Copiapó are the Mineralogic Museum, Plaza de Armas, Regional Museum of the Matta Family, the Wooden Railway Station, the San José Cooper Mine
2010 Copiapó mining accident
The 2010 Copiapó mining accident, also known as the "Chilean mining accident", began in the afternoon of Thursday, 5 August 2010 as a significant cave-in at the troubled 121-year-old San José copper–gold mine. The mine is located deep in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest and harshest...

 (closed in 2010); in the coast, Totoralillo, Totoral and the zone of "Travesía", wherein after rain, occurs the so-called "Desierto Florido"; in the Andes, the Ojos del Salado volcano, and the lakes Green and Negro Francisco, and also the Tres Cruces National Park.

Municipal Government

As a commune, Copiapó is a third-level administrative division of Chile administered by a municipal council
Municipal council
A municipal council is the local government of a municipality. Specifically the term can refer to the institutions of various countries that can be translated by this term...

, headed by an alcalde
Alcalde , or Alcalde ordinario, is the traditional Spanish municipal magistrate, who had both judicial and administrative functions. An alcalde was, in the absence of a corregidor, the presiding officer of the Castilian cabildo and judge of first instance of a town...

 who is directly elected every four years. The 2008-2012 alcalde is Maglio Cicardini (ILA). The council has the following members:
  • Anelice Véliz Kratzschmar
  • Christian Guzmán Rojas
  • Mario Enrique Bordoli Vergara
  • Juan Carlos Mellibovsky Leiva
  • José Bernardino Fernández Quevedo
  • Cristian Sierralta

Brief History of Recent Municipal Politics

Since the return to democracy
Chilean transition to democracy
The Chilean transition to democracy began when a Constitution establishing a transition itinerary was approved in a plebiscite. From March 11, 1981 to March 11, 1990, several organic constitutional laws were approved leading to the final restoration of democracy...

 in 1990, there have been five mayoral elections held in Copiapó.

In 1992, Mónica Calcutta (PPD) won the election against 24 candidates. Her term was characterized by public expenditures on green areas, parks, and street paving, and public infrastructure such as the new building of the City Hall (1994), the Estadio Techado (1996), and the Technological School (inaugurated in 1997). During her term, Calcutta encouraged people to participate. One of these activities was the "Train of History" carried out in 1994 (for the 250th anniversary of Copiapó) and 1995.

Despite all these expenditures, the City Hall ended up with no debt for 1996.

In 1996, Calcutta ran for the re-election, but was defeated by the socialist candidate Marcos López (city councilor 1992–1996) by a narrow margin of 146 votes. López's term differed substantially from Calcutta's; his first three years as mayor did not see any important public expenditures in visible things. They came out the year before the following election.

The 2000 election was a very confrontational one. López and Calcutta ran for election together with 10 other candidates. In spite of surveys that showed a virtual tie between them, López won the election with an overwhelming 50.07% of the votes to his rival's 31.52%.

López's second term in office was characterized by high public expenditures, part of it from the Central Government to improve Chilean infrastructure toward the bicentennial of Independence. These expenditures went towards redesigning the Central Square, Matta Avenue and the City Chamber.

In 2004, Marcos López was elected to another term, defeating the rightist candidate René Aedo (RN) with 50.01% to 40.82% of the votes.

In 2008, López run for a fourth term, but was defeated by the independent candidate Maglio Cicardini Neyra, by a margin of less than 1% of the votes.

Congressional Representation

Within the electoral divisions of Chile, Copiapó is represented in the Chamber of Deputies
Chamber of Deputies of Chile
The Chamber of Deputies of the Republic of Chile is the lower house of Chile's bicameral Congress. Its organisation and its powers and duties are defined in articles 42 to 59 of Chile's current constitution....

 by Lautaro Carmona (PC
Communist Party of Chile
The Communist Party of Chile is a Chilean political party inspired by the thoughts of Karl Marx and Lenin. It was founded in 1922, as the continuation of the Socialist Workers Party, and in 1934 it established its youth wing, the Communist Youth of Chile .In the last legislative elections in Chile...

) and Carlos Vilches (UDI) as part of the 5th electoral district, (together with Chañaral
Chañaral is a small coastal city and commune in the Atacama Region, Chile and capital of the Chañaral Province. A colourful town largely unknown by tourists, who generally head straight for towns such as San Pedro de Atacama. The town is considered unspoiled, with the benefit of having absolutely...

 and Diego de Almagro
Diego de Almagro, Chile
Diego de Almagro is a Chilean city and commune in Chañaral Province, Atacama Region. The commune has an area of . The area is named after Diego de Almagro.-Demographics:...

). The commune is represented in the Senate
Senate of Chile
The Senate of the Republic of Chile is the upper house of Chile's bicameral National Congress, as established in the current Constitution of Chile.-Composition:...

 by Isabel Allende Bussi
Isabel Allende Bussi
María Isabel Allende Bussi is a Chilean Socialist politician and the daughter of former president of Chile Salvador Allende, and his wife, Hortensia Bussi...

Socialist Party of Chile
The Socialist Party of Chile is a political party, that is part of the center-left Coalition of Parties for Democracy coalition. Its historical leader was the late President of Chile Salvador Allende Gossens, who was deposed by General Pinochet in 1973...

) and Baldo Prokurica Prokurica (RN
National Renewal (Chile)
National Renewal , is a liberal conservative political party belonging to the Chilean right-wing political coalition Coalition for Change in conjunction with the Independent Democratic Union and the Chile First movement...

) as part of the 3rd senatorial constituency (Atacama Region).


Copiapó provides public and private education, from kindergarten to high school, and also technical and bachellor's degrees.


According to the Departament of Education of Chile, Copiapó had (2007) an enrollment of more than 35.000 students, divided in the following programs: Kindergarten, 3.780 students; Differencial Education, 1.009 students; Elementary and Middle School, 20.794 students; High School, 10.291 students (5.185 in Scientific-Humanist programs and 5.106 in Technical-Professional programs).

La commune of Copiapó offers public and private education held by 64 schools, divided in: 61 urbans and 3 rurals; 32 public, 23 State-subsidized private schools and 9 private schools.


  • Universidad de Atacama
    Universidad de Atacama
    University of Atacama or UDA is a university in Chile. It is part of the Chilean Traditional Universities. The university is located in Copiapó, in the Third Region, Atacama....

     was founded in 1857, and is the only public university in the Third Region.
  • Universidad del Mar (Copiapó)
  • Universidad Santo Tomás(Copiapó)
  • Universidad Tecnológica de Chile, INACAP (Copiapó)

Professional Institutes

  • Instituto Tecnológico UDA (public)
  • Santo Tomás (private)
  • Inacap (private)
  • Iplacex (private)

Technical Centers of Study

  • CFT Benjamín Teplizky (private)
  • CFT Santo Tomás (private)
  • CFT Inacap (private)
  • CFT Cepa (private)


This city has a soccer team called Club de Deportes Copiapó
Club de Deportes Copiapó
Club de Deportes Copiapó are an Chilean Football club, their home town is Copiapó in Chile. They currently play in 2nd division of Chilean football, Liga Chilena de Fútbol: Primera B...

, which was born after the dissolution of Regional Atacama, in 1999. It plays in the Primera B League of Soccer of Chile, and plays as local in the Luis Valenzuela Hermosilla Stadium
Estadio Luis Valenzuela Hermosilla
Estadio Luis Valenzuela Hermosilla is a multi-use stadium in Copiapó, Chile. It is currently used mostly for football matches and is the home ground of Club de Deportes Copiapó of the Chilean Primera División B. It also hosted Regional Atacama of the Chilean Primera División. The stadium has a...

 and in the Municipal Stadium of Tierra Amarilla.

In 2009 began the reparation of the Luis Valenzuela Hermosilla Stadium, and it is expected to be concluded by September 2011.

Raid Atacama

This is the event that gathers the most 4x4 automoviles in the World, and it began in 1992.

The effort and spirit of Raid Atacama has made it worthy of the National Award for Tourism. For over 21 years, the Atacama Raid has been the cornerstone of the development of off-road activities along Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, and its example has been follow by many clubs and even several companies.

In the last seven years, the enrollment has kept steady on an average of about 500 vehicles per event, and more than 1,800 participants from all regions of the country and abroad.

In 1997, reaches the largest number of participants to date, bringing together 613 4x4 vehicles, which allowed to apply for registration as a world record, with no other event to date of its magnitude. Another of the achievements is to hold, without competition, the record for international off-road event (amateur) with greater permanence in time.

Rally Dakar

In the last years, Copiapó has been not only one of the Chilean communes the Rally Dakar Chile-Argentina has passed through, but also the place of birth of Jaime Prohens, one of the most importants runners of this rally.

Copiapó UFO sighting

Copiapó was said to be the site of an unidentified flying object
Unidentified flying object
A term originally coined by the military, an unidentified flying object is an unusual apparent anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable to the observer as any known object...

 sighting in 1864. According to researcher Chris Aubeck, the story first appeared in print in the March 18, 1868 issue of the newspaper El Constituyente, which was itself cited in the journal The Zoologist then in Lo!
Lo! was the third published nonfiction work of the author Charles Fort . In it he details a wide range of unusual phenomena. In the final chapter of the book he proposes a new cosmology that the earth is stationary in space and surrounded by a solid shell which is "....

, a 1931 book by American investigator Charles Fort
Charles Fort
Charles Hoy Fort was an American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena. Today, the terms Fortean and Forteana are used to characterize various such phenomena. Fort's books sold well and are still in print today.-Biography:Charles Hoy Fort was born in 1874 in Albany, New York, of Dutch...

. Fort's account was the basis of a later account in Anatomy of a Phenomenon (1965) by ufologist Jacques Vallee
Jacques Vallée
Jacques Fabrice Vallée is a venture capitalist, computer scientist, author, ufologist and former astronomer currently residing in San Francisco, California....


External links

Municipality of Copiapó
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