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Sewell Mining Town

Sewell Mining Town
Photo provided by Jonas Kremer
Sewell Mining Town is an example of an early 20th century mining town set up by a foreign company for copper mining. It is located in a harsh environment in central Chile on the slopes of the Andes, at an altitude between 2,000 and 2,250 metres.

The camp was founded in 1904 by the Braden Copper Company to extract the copper in the mine, and, in 1915, it was named after the company's first president, Mr. Barton Sewell. In 1918, it already housed 14,000 people.

Following many years of active life and achieving the construction and exploitation of the largest underground mine in the world, in 1977 the company started moving families to the valley and soon after the camp was being dismantled.

The remains of the mining town consist of industrial, residential and social buildings.


Tessa (New Zealand):
We went to Sewell in 2006 and it was quite interesting the buildings were very old and you could almost sense the people that used to live there, were still around it was very eerie bit we went into the actual mine and it was amazing especially seeing the giant crystal quartz.Amazing!
We wemt on a tour with a tour guide and he was very informative and answered every question we asked him.It was exciting getting dressed up as a miner.Afterwards we managed to have lunch with all the other miners in the dining room.It is also a nice drive there and back.Lovely.I would highly reccommend this tour to anyone that has an interest in historical towns and sites and also anyone that has a desire to see how a mining actually works and operates.
Date posted: July 2008
Werner Huber (Austria):
We visited Sewell in February 2008 encountering some difficulties. There is a homepage ( for sewell by CODELCO, the state owned company, which runs several mines, amongs them El Teniente, to which the mining town of Sewell belongs.
This page is of limited use as rather than telling you how to get there, what it costs, etc, it refers to a company called VLT which has the monopoply of taking people there. This is done either by bus on Fro, Sat and Sun for approx 45 USD pP or on all other days as private tour for 144 USD pP.
The committment that CODELCO seems to have with UNESCO is that Sewell as a seperate entity from the mine has to become profitable entity from its tourism engagements within a rather short timeline, otherwise CODELCO might step out. We have been told, that the number of tourist to come to Sewell for the reasons UNESCO declared it a world heritage is already declining after an initial peak, people are more interested in the actual mine rather than in an aboandoned mining town.

Finally one has to understand that you see today only a fragment of the initial mining town, large parts, in particular the part where the american settlements were has been pulled down when the town had to be abandoned due to pollution problems.
The restauration efforts which happened so far are rather disappointing, if they continue at that speed, the whole thing is gone within a few years.

I have to stress however, that despite all the issues above it is absolutely worth seing and we had a very good and comprehensive tour which we much apprecheated.
Visit it as long as it exits.

UNESCO should be much more rigid with states aor companies like CODELCO and ask for a deeper comittments and sould pu the place on the endangered list immediately.

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Site info

Sewell Mining Town
Country: Chile
Inscribed: 2006
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (2)
Category: Secular structure, Mines

Site history:
2006 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:

In the news:
Not available

Related links:
» Historical Photos of Sewell.
» Wiki on Sewell.

Related Forum posts:
Not available

Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Hospitals . Railways .
Andes . Antipodes points .
Human Activity
Company town . Copper production .
Built in the 20th century .
Built or owned by Americans . Named after individual people .
World Heritage Process
Industrial Landscapes . Inscribed on a single criterion only .

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