The giant rocky outcrop known by locals as La Cobaltera offers a glimpse into northern Chile’s mining past, and a hint of its future.
Slag from an ancient furnace is piled at the entrance of a mine shaft that hasn’t seen commercial activity since World War II. Inside, eucalyptus posts still support narrow tunnels, placed there by German engineers as a kind of alarm system: when they creaked it was a sign the tunnel might collapse.
Now the global hunt for cobalt, a key commodity in the electric-vehicle revolution, is rousing the sleepy community on the edge of Chile’s northern desert. Trucks are bouncing down the meandering dirt road from Freirina, carrying modern mining equipment to La Cobaltera. Continue Reading →