City of Calama


 22°28'29"S,   68°55'6"W
Elevation: 2268m (7441 ft)

The City of Calama is just south of the mega-copper mine Chuquicamata and primarily serves as a bedroom community for the workers and their families.  This is the prime copper producing province in the world mainly due to the hyper arid environment. (Reich et al, 2009)  


From Antofagasta to Calama runs the Antofagasta–Calama Lineament (ACL), a series of Northeast trending strike slip faults which is thought to have controlled the emplacement of the extensive porphyry copper deposits. (Palacios et al, 2007)   The town has consequently had its share of earthquakes including a 7.8 in 2005.  (The town was also completely destroyed in 1870 by an earthquake!)

The stratigraphic succession in the Calama Basin (from Moreno and Gibbons, 2007)

Geology of Calama

Related Info:

Renowned photographer Paula Allen did a photographic story on the Courageous Women of Calama

With a population of almost 150,000, the community has the basic services you might expect in any major city.  This was our last chance to stock up on gasoline, water, and food for some time!

Additional Sources:

  • Latorre C, Betancourt JL, Rylander KA, Quade J. 2002. Vegetation invasions into Absolute Desert: A 45,000-yr rodent midden record from the Calama-Salar de Atacama Basins, northern Chile (22–248 S). Geological Society of America Bulletin 114: 349–366

  • Moreno, T. and Gibbons, W.   The Geology of Chile.   Geological Society of London.  ISBN 186239220X. p. 84.

  • Palacios, C. et.al. (2007)  The role of the Antofagasta–Calama Lineament in ore deposit deformation in the Andes of northern Chile.  Mineralium Deposita; Volume 42, Number 3: 301-308.

  • Reich, M., et al.  2009.  Supergene enrichment of copper deposits since the onset of modern hyperaridity in the Atacama Desert, Chile.   Mineralium Deposita; Volume 44, Number 5: 497-504.