VALLENAR

          Vallenar is a Chilean commune, capital of the Province of Huasco in the Atacama region , located 146 km from Copiapo and 645 km north of Santiago , is located in the bottom drawer of Huasco River and has a population of 52,099 inhabitants ( census 2012). St. Ambrose Church .

The valley of Huasco was occupied from the conquest of the country by Spanish encomenderos , mainly in the coastal zone. Governor Ambrosio O’Higgins , recently assumed his mandate, crossed by horse and boat northern Chile to the present city of Copiapo. On his return , in 1789 , founded the city of Vallenar with the name of St. Ambrose of Ballenary , in memory of his native hamlet in County Sligo in Ireland , personally selecting the place , halfway between the coast ( present city of Huasco ) and the narrow Andean drawer , in a place called Paitanas .

Since its inception Vallenar has been a city with a major mining. In 1811 , the discovery of a silver mine in the area ( Bitter Water, 24 km from the city), José Miguel Carrera commands found in the city’s first bank in Chile. Then in 1839, the first issue of airline owners in the country, by Alejandro and Ignacio Walker is . In 1892 the railroad arrives from Guasco and started operations in 1959 Pacific Mining Company , with the iron mines of Santa Fe, Algarrobo and Los Colorados .
The November 10, 1922 the city was hit by a 8.5 magnitude earthquake , which generated severe damage to buildings downtown. The January 30, 2013 an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale struck the commune.
Currently the largest mining project in the area is the Pascua Lama project , which involves the exploitation by the Canadian company Barrick , a gold mine in the Andean valley of Huasco limit with Argentina . This project has been widely criticized for its environmental impact, as it would be built on tributaries of the River Huasco , which is the lifeline of agriculture and human activity in the province, and also alter the water and ecological reserves in the region, the need to execute the removal of existing glaciers in the high mountains . Until the end of 2005 the project is in its environmental assessment by the national regulatory authority CONAMA .

Pascua Lama has passed all environmental and legal procedures in both Chile and Argentina , to begin construction in September 2009, this will mean a large economic impact mainly in the city of Vallenar and the valley of Huasco .
As for its agricultural history , in 1823 the first irrigation canal was built , which was followed by many others, to build, in the government of Eduardo Frei Ruiz- Tagle , the Embalse Santa Juana .
Currently the two main economic sources of the city are mining (mainly iron ) , and agriculture (olive , grape pisco and export also fruits and vegetables that supply the local population ) .
To date we are developing two projects : one is related to the installation of a production of pork ( AGROSUPER ) and the other the controversial project Pascua Lama gold mining , which should begin the process assembly and construction in September 2009 . Other major projects in development that are ” El Morro ” ( copper mine , gold and silver ) and ” Neigh ” ( copper mine ) also in the field of mining iron other projects .

Photography, Felix Barroeta. Contrastes de Atacama.

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