Geology of Chile

Chile is a very long but narrow country located in one of the most active tectonic regions of the earth. As seen in the map below, Chile is close to or part of four tectonic plates: the Antarctic Plate, the Nazca Plate, the Scotia Plate and the South American Plate. The eastern edge of the Nazca Plate is a convergent boundary in which crustal rock is moving under the South American Plate and the Andes Mountains, forming the Peru-Chile Trench. The subduction (movement of rock under the South American Plate) of the Nazca plate under southern Chile has a history of producing massive earthquakes including the largest ever recorded on earth, the moment magnitude 9.5 1960 Valdivia earthquake.  The Chile earthquakes of March 11, 2010,  occurred in the region of the plate boundary between the Nazca and South America plates and was caused by normal faulting within the subducting Nazca plate or the overriding South America plate.

The Earth's Crustal Plates: Chile is influences by four Crustal Plates as seen in the map.

Three major geological features describe the geological structure of Chile: The Andes, The Chilean Central Valley, and the Chilean Coastal Range, mountains that run along the coast parallel to the Andes.

The map highlights the Chile Coastal Mountains, while to the east is located the Central Valley, and further east, the Andes.

A good article to read about the geology of Chile can be found here.

The San Jose Mine disaster in which 33 miners were rescued after being more than two-thousand feet beneath beneath a mountain of igneous rock has highlighted the mining industry in Chile.  Joaquin Cortés, PhD, a visiting assistant professor of geology at the University at Buffalo, a Chilean native and former staff member of the Chilean Geological Survey (Sernageomin), in an interview with UB Newscenter, said that the mine disaster will impact mining in Chile and globally, forever.  He also comments on the mining industry in Chile pointing out how advanced it is technologically, but still in need of stricter safety enforcement.

Here is a video of his interview which you can read here.

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University.