Sulphuric Acid Route, 2012
The ‘camanchaca’ describes a unique meteorological condition consisting of a dense morning fog that makes it very difficult to see but never results in rainfall. This phenomenon takes place along the coasts of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth. In Aymara cosmology, ‘camanchaca’ is associated with the obscure, the hidden, the secret and unknown; a point of no return associated with danger and death.
These uncertain landscapes conceal the world’s largest known reserves of copper.
Across them, hundreds of trucks, each carrying twenty-six tons of sulphuric acid, transit daily to fulfil the thirsty needs of the extractive industry. Sulphuric acid is used in the extraction process to separate the copper from other, unwanted, materials, generating by-products which have transformed this vast desert, famous mostly for its rich mineral deposits, into a wasteland of hidden toxic residues.
Further, desertification means that it is expanding at the rapid speed of 0.4 kilometres per year, product of de-regulated land use and water appropriation.
Ruta 1, Province of Tarapacá, Chile. (2012)