Cuajone mine complex was developed by Southern Peru Copper Corporation and covers a considerable surface topography. The 1,600-square-mile mining triangle begins with a water supply at Lake Suche at 14,500 feet in the Andes and ends with a smelter on the South Pacific coast.
The lure of this 12,000-foot high desert site is a 470-million ton deposit of sulfide copper ore. The ore body is buried by a billion tons of rock overburden. One fourth of the rock needed to be removed before mining could begin.
The remote and expansive desert site, where no roads, housing, communications, or utilities existed, required all the infrastructure and industry to be constructed. The superstructure included the mining operation, crushers, grinding circuits, flotation, tailings thickeners, smelters, and power plants.
Cuajone ore travels by rail six miles to the concentrator at Botiflaca, at 11,000 feet. There, the one-percent copper ore is processed to 30 percent product at the 45,000 tons per day concentrator. Next, the ore product travels 135 miles to the expanded smelter at Ilo to be converted to blister copper for export.