What are the Natural Resources of Chile?

The Natural resources of Chile Are mainly based on mining and forestry reserves, agriculture, groundwater use and fishing industry.

Chile is surrounded by deserts to the north, by ice in the south, by the mountains of the Andes to the east and by the Pacific Ocean to the West.

Natural resources-chile

Its surface covers 4,200 km, where we can find a great diversity of climates: desert (Atacama), subtropical (Easter Island) and polar (Antarctica).

Chile is divided into 5 natural regions: a) The Big North b) the Little North C) Central Chile d) South Zone and e) Southern Zone (Figure 1).

Location Figure 1. Location of Chile within South America (Letelier et al., 2003).

The Norte Grande region is a very arid area where the Atacama Desert is located. In the North Chico region, the climate is steppe type, here we can find great valleys with very good fertility for agriculture.

The Central Zone comprises the metropolitan region and the capital of Chile, being the most urbanized zone of the country. In it the climate is Mediterranean with vegetation of mesomórficos bushes.

In the South Zone the climate is more humid, being able to find areas of forests, jungles and extensive lakes. In this zone we find the native forests, composed of araucaria, oak (Nothofagus oblicua), coihue (Nothofagus dombeyi) and raulí (Nothofagus alpine). These represent a source of food and medicinal plants for the Mapuche communities (Azócar et al., 2005, Herrmann, 2005).

Finally, in the Southern Zone we can find climates of cold steppe, tundra, glacier of height and polar. The latter is present in the Chilean Antarctic territory.

Land Use

The Chilean economy is based on the primary sector, mining, agriculture, fisheries and forestry resources, so it depends heavily on factors such as water and ecosystem resources.


Mining is the first economic sector. It has played a very important role in the development of Chile at the end of the last century (Figures 2 and 3) and currently contributes greatly to the country's GDP.

In 2012, 80% of Chile's natural resource exports were copper mining. (Sturla & Illanes, 2014).

This activity is mainly located in the North and Center areas, which are the most arid areas of the country.

This represents a major problem for water resources, as it is also an extractive activity of water, it is also highly polluting due to the use of chemicals in its processes, affecting other sectors such as agriculture and domestic use. (Sturla & Illanes, 2014).

Use-of-soil Figure 2. Annual monetary contribution of Chilean mining, compared to other sectors (Lagos, 1997) Monetary-copper-contribution Figure 3. Annual monetary contribution of copper mining compared to other mining activities (Lagos, 1997)

In the Central Zone, changes in land use have favored urban growth. From 1975 (Figure 4).


As of this year, there has been an increase in the urban area and a decrease in scrubland areas, agricultural activity due to problems of water scarcity and soil erosion, and the richness and abundance of birds of prey (Pavez et al. Al. 2010).

Dinamica-del-paisaje-en-la-precordillera-de-santiago Figure 4. Landscape dynamics in the Santiago precordillera between 1975 and 2003. A = 1975, B = 1989, C = 2003. (Pavez et al., 2010)


As for the animal fauna, it emphasizes the hunting of foxes, chingues, guanacos and pumas, mainly for the sale of their skins.

At the same time, the introduction of exotic species produced serious imbalances in Chilean ecosystems.

Currently, hunting in Chile is regulated for species such as guanaco and ñandú, which are being bred in captivity. In addition to these, exotic species were introduced for this purpose such as red deer, wild boar, ostrich and emu.

In Chile, a total of 56 amphibian species are found, of which 34 are endemic (Ortiz and Díaz, 2006).

Forest Resources

The forest industry is of great importance to the Chilean economy. The contribution of industry to national GDP grew by almost 30% during the period 1998-2006.

This industry is located in the Center and South of Chile. The main exporting countries are the United States, China, Mexico and Japan, with wood chips, pulp and paper, sawn lumber, boards, veneers and posts being the products with the most output (Felzensztein and Gimmon, 2008).

Chile has areas of protection for biodiversity. Approximately 20% of the continental and insular national territory is protected.

However, more than 80% of the terrestrial protected area is located in Aysén and Magallanes, while in the Maule, Coquimbo and Santiago metropolitan regions we only find less than 1% of protected areas (Sierralta et al., 2011).


The Chilean economy based on exports of copper, fruit, wood, salmon and wine has intensified the use of water, mainly in the North and Central parts, precisely where water availability is limited. This is due to the drop in the level of groundwater and the low availability of water, so characteristic of arid climates.

The average recharge of groundwater reaches approximately 55 m3 / s. If we compare this value with the 88 m3 / s of effective use of groundwater in 2003, we realize that there is a deficit of this resource.

The main use given to groundwater is in agriculture, followed by local consumption and industry (Sturla & Illanes, 2014).

Fishing industry

Chile has a wide variety of mollusks. To date, 779 species of the gastropoda class and 650 species of the cephalopoda class have been quantified, many of them very important for the fishing sector (Letelier et al., 2003).

More than 60 species of shellfish and seaweed are regularly exploited by the small-scale fisheries sector and in foreign markets. The species that are commercialized are tolina (Concholepas concholepas), the sea urchin (Loxechinus albus), the jaiba mora (Flat Homalaspis) and some species of lapa (Fissurella maximus, Fissurella latimarginata, Fissurella cumingi) (Castilla and Fernandez, 1998 ),

To these species is added the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas), an exotic mollusk of great economic interest that was introduced in 1978 (Moller et al., 2001).

Like other coastal sectors, fishing has led to a drastic reduction of local hydrobiological resources, resulting in the impoverishment of the communities that depend on these resources. (Schurman, 1996).

Throughout the last sixty years, records of the total landings of fish, molluscs, crustaceans, algae and others have been kept, with a constant increase in exploitation.

This reached 8 million tonnes in 1994, to subsequently decline to 4 million tonnes in recent years. However, the subsectors of artisanal and aquaculture fisheries have grown steadily, reaching a similar contribution to that of the industrial subsector. (Figure 5).

Landing-fish-chile Figure 5. Total fish landings per subsector from 1969 to 2012 (Cox and Bravo, 2014).

The aquaculture industry or fish culture is export oriented, selling more than 90% of production abroad. Its main export markets are the United States (37%), Japan (30%) and the European Union (14%), (Felzensztein and Gimmon, 2008).

The main species of farmed fish is Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), followed by rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), (Cox and Bravo, 2014).


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  2. Castille Juan C, Fernandez Miriam. (1998) Small-Scale Benthic Fisheries In Chile: On Co-Management And Sustainable Use Of Benthic Invertebrates. Ecological Applications, Ecological Society of America. Supplement, 1998, pp. S124-S132.
  3. Cox Francisco, Bravo Pablo (2014). Fisheries: evolution of their landings, use and export in the last decades. Office of Agricultural Studies and Policies. Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector - industrial fishing - artisanal fishing - fishmeal and fish oil - algae.
  4. Felzensztein Christian and Eli Gimmon. (2008). Industrial Clusters and Social Networking for enhancing inter-firm cooperation: The case of natural resource-based industries in Chile. Jbm vol. 2, DOI 10,1007 / s12087-008-0031-z.
  5. Herrmann Thora Martina, (2005), Knowledge, values, uses and management of the Araucaria araucanaforest by the indigenous Mapuche, Pewenche people: A basis for collaborative natural resource management in southern Chile Natural Resources Forum 29. pp. 120-134.
  6. Lagos Gustavo. (1997). Developing national mining policies in Chile: 1974-96, Resources Policy. Vol. 23, No. 1/2, pp. 51-69.
  7. Letelier Sergio, Marco A. Vega, Ana María Ramos and Esteban Carreño, (2003). Database of the National Museum of Natural History: mollusks of Chile. Rev. Biol Trop. 51 (Suppl 3): pp. 33-137.
  8. Moller P., Sánchez P., Bariles J. and Pedreros M. A., (2001) Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas Culture a Productive Option For Artisan Fishermen In An Estuarine Wetland In Southern Chile. Environmental Management 7: pp 65-78.
  9. Ortiz Z. Juan Carlos and Helen Díaz Páez (2006). State of Knowledge of the Amphibians of Chile, Department of Zoology, University of Conception. Casilla 160-C, Concepción, Department of Basic Sciences, Los Angeles Academic Unit, Universidad de Concepción. Casilla 341, Los Angeles, Chile. Gayana 70 (1) ISSN 0717-652X, pp 114-121.
  10. Pavez Eduardo F., Gabriel A. Lobos 2 & Fabian M. Jaksic2, (2010) Long-term changes in the landscape and assemblages of micromamíferos and rapaces in central Chile, Union of Ornithologists of Chile, Casilla 13.183, Santiago-21, Chile, Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology & Biodiversity (CASEB), Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chilean Journal of Natural History 83: 99-111.
  11. Schurman Rachel, (1996). ASnails, Southern Hake and Sustainability: Neoliberalism and Natural Resource Exports in Chile University of California, Berkeley, USA. World Development, Vol. 24, No. 11, pp. 1695-1709.
  12. Sierralta L., R. Serrano. J. Rovira & C. Cortés (eds.), (2011). Protected areas of Chile, Ministry of the Environment, 35 pp.
  13. Sturla Zerené Gino, Illanes Muñoz Camila, (2014), The Water Policy in Chile and the Great Copper Mining, Public Analysis Magazine, School of Public Administration. University of Valparaíso, Chile, pp. 26.

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