Copper is Chile’s most important export product, along with cellulose and foodstuffs such as fruit and fish. The El Teniente copper mine, managed by Codelco, is located about 60 km from Rancagua in the direction of the Andes Cordilleras in the central region of O´Higgins and is the largest underground copper mine in the world with over 3000 km of tunnelling. Last year, 465,040 tons of copper were mined here. Copper mining has a long tradition in Chile, and Sewell, the “company town” where the workers of the El Teniente mine and their families lived, exhibits the copper boom of the 20th century. This mining city, located about 3 km from the mine, was built in 1904, as was a railway line connecting the city with Rancagua. Sewell was named after Barton Sewell, chairman of the Braden Copper Company – the American company that took over the El Teniente mine in 1905. As the company’s operations grew, so did the town.
Sewell is surrounded by the Andes mountains, and numerous stairs connect the colourful houses of the workers. This small town had a cinema, pool and bowling hall. When copper was gradually nationalised in the 1970s and the costs of the mining town could no longer be covered, all the inhabitants of Sewell were transferred to the town of Rancagua. The musical “Sewell”, produced by the Teatro del Homenaje de Chile, tells the story of when the families had to leave Sewell and looked to the future with both hope and uncertainty.
Today, Sewell is only open for tourists and can be visited on guided tours. There are still 50 original historic buildings from this period, which are gradually being restored and can be visited. The former pool and the bowling hall are still well preserved. The mining town of Sewell was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006 because of its historical and cultural value. The history of Sewell is explained to its visitors in the local museum, which displays pictures and copper mining memorabilia.
If you want to learn firsthand about this historically and economically important industry of Chile, you should plan a visit to the abandoned city of Sewell during your trip to the country. For more information, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your travelArt representative.