29 b/w photographs, each 7 x 9-1/2 inches, in sleeves in a modern plastic binder, many captioned and dated in the negative, a handful with typed captions on the verso. Four photos have been removed from an album, and have paper backing still adhering; one photo is mounted to heavier cardstock, the rest are printed on standard photographic paper of varying weights. Large chip to one photograph, the rest about fine.
El Teniente, one of the largest and oldest copper mines in South America, is cradled in the Chilean highlands, surrounded on all sides by the high peaks of the Andes. The mine was run with various degrees of success from its opening ca. 1819 until 1889, when flooding and lack of funds left it totally inoperable. Faced with seeking outside investment or leaving the mine to the wilderness, the Chileans turned to the United States, which could supply both capital and more efficient technology for copper extraction. In 1910, after a series of takeovers, El Teniente came under the control of the Guggenheim family—first under the name of the Braden Copper Company, and then as the Kennecott Copper Company. By the middle of World War I, production had increased fourfold, and by the end of the war the mine employed more than 5,000 workers. The photos here, taken between 1913 and 1916, document the period during which the mine was transformed from a small, undercapitalized, domestically owned operation to a large industrial enterprise under foreign control. Many of the photographs were taken from a vantage point high above the mining complex. In them we see new roads, housing, railroad tracks, trains winding along steep grades and through narrow passes, and mining facilities. There are new mills, crushers, flotation units, and a state-of-the art aerial tramway. But we also see the devastating effect of snow slides following a series of massive storms in 1914-15. In every image, both man and machine are overshadowed by the sheer size and majesty of the surrounding mountains. It's hard not to be struck by the audacity required to attempt a toehold on this landscape, to aspire to taming it and extracting its core. Though the odds seem insurmountable, generations of miners have persisted and prevailed. Purchased by the Chilean government in 1967, El Teniente remains in operation today.