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September 2011

Chile - Physiography

Chile - Physiography

Chile (756,102 sq km), located in Southern South America, borders the South Pacific Ocean, Argentina and Peru. In June 2010 Chile was estimated to have a population of 17 million people (68.1 % between 15-64 years).

The northern Chilean desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper, but also gold, potash, and lithium salts. The central area dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. This area also is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century, when it incorporated its northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands. Chile's climate is temperate, desert in north, Mediterranean in central region, with cool and damp areas in the south. The terrain is mainly low coastal mountains, fertile central valley, with the rugged Andes Maountains in east.

Chile holds a very strategic location relative to sea lanes between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage). The Atacama Desert is one of world's driest regions; the crater lake of Ojos del Salado is the worlds highest lake (at 6,390m). Chile's natural resources include: copper, timber, iron ore, nitrates, precious metals, molybdenum, and hydropower. Natural hazards facing Chile include: severe earthquakes, active volcanism, and tsunamis. Ethnically, Chile is comprised of Spanish-Native American (mestizo), European, and Native American.

On 14 September 2011, an earthquake of 5.9 magnitude struck 21 miles north of Valparaiso. To learn more about earthquakes around the world, go to the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program site.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, 8/2011; 3/2011; 9/2011

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