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Pictures of Chile
Historical Photos of Sewell - El Teniente

Located in the Andes on Cerro Negro about 7000 ft (2100 m) high, 48 miles (80 km) from Santiago and 26.4 miles (44) up the mountain from Rancagua in the VI Región del Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins, Sewell is the site of the world’s largest underground mine, with about 900 miles (1500 km ) of underground galleries.

There were primitive copper diggings on Cerro Negro for centuries before an American mining engineer named William Braden started mining operations there in 1904 as Braden Copper Company. The following year, the Chilean government authorized operations and the mine was under non-Chilean control until the mine was nationalized in 1971.

Sewell, Chile Structures were built into the sides of the mountain, according to the topography. Most of the houses were of wood, two or three stories high, narrow and long. Some were more substantial, built of stucco, but all buildings, industrial, commercial or residential with threatened by earthquakes, avalanches and explosions. Despite these dangers, Sewell flourished and reached its zenith in the 1960's with 16,000 inhabitants. Larger view
Sewell, Chile For the first decade, the growth of the mining camp evolved by need. The first efforts went naturally into mining. Two distinct areas were developed. Pueblo Hundido and El Establecimiento where a concentrator, a hydroelectric plant, ferry cables for the overhead transport of ore were built, followed by a smelter and other necessary functions. Living conditions for the workers, mostly bachelors living in barrack type accommodations called colectivos were fairly rugged. Larger view
Sewell, Chile A narrow gauge railroad line between Sewell and Rancagua was started in 1907 and fully in use by 1911. This became the only way in and out of the mining camp for personnel and goods. The track was protected by wooden sheds to keep the snow away. Larger view
Sewell, Chile This photograph shows workers excavating, leveling and digging out tunnels on the mountain slopes before laying railroad track. Larger view
Sewell, Chile Building the railroad trestle bridge to connect the railroad to Cerro Negro. Larger view
Sewell, Chile These are the crushers that take huge rocks and, in successive actions, crush them into pebble size within the revolving drums. The noise here is tremendous. Larger view
Sewell, Chile Interior of the concentrator plant with the complex assortment of machinery and equipment needed to separate copper ore from rock. Larger view
Sewell, Chile This photo taken in June 1916 gives us a very good idea of the effort needed to build a mining camp. Larger view

Photographs displayed with the kind permission of James R. Taylor

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