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7 December 2010
Oldest mine of the Americas found in Chile

Archaeologists have discovered a 12,000-year-old iron oxide mine in northern Chile, making it the oldest mine yet discovered in all the Americas. The iron oxide mined by the Huentelauquen Indians was used as a pigment in dying cloth and in religious rituals, revealing an unexpected sophistication in what was previously considered a primitive group of people, University of Chile researcher Diego Salazar said.
     The ancient mine was discovered near the town of Taltal, in the Antofagasta region, 1,100km north of Santiago, in October 2008, but its antiquity was not determined until tests were conducted this year in US and Polish laboratories. Named 'San Ramon 15', the mine was exploited heavily from 10,000 to 2,000 BCE. It yielded a total of 2,000 tonnes of pigment extracted from 700 cubic metres of rock.
     Experts also found a treasure trove of stone and conch mining tools in the area. "We've found more than 1,000 hammers ... but considering the amount of material we have yet to sift through, the real number could rise to several thousands," said archaeologist Hernan Salinas. Before this find, the oldest mine in the Americas was 2,500 years old and located in the USA. The world's most ancient mine is in South Africa and is about 40,000 years old.

Edited from AFP, The Sydney Morning Herald (6 December 2011)

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