The history of the Group began with the Antofagasta (Chili) and Bolivia Railway Company plc, which was incorporated in London in 1888. It raised money on the London Stock Exchange to build and operate a railway from Antofagasta, a port on the Pacific Coast of Northern Chile, to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.
In 1980, a majority interest in the company was acquired by the Luksic Group, a Chilean industrial family. In 1982, Antofagasta Holdings plc (subsequently renamed Antofagasta plc in 1999) was formed as the new holding company, to continue to own and develop the railway business but also to make other investments in Chile. During the 1980s, Antofagasta diversified into a number of other sectors – mining (including the acquisition of an interest in the Michilla underground operation in 1983 and the Los Pelambres orebody in 1986), but also banking, telecommunications and manufacturing.
In 1996, Antofagasta merged its banking and industrial interests with those of Quiñenco S.A., a diversified Chilean company also controlled by the Luksic family. The merger of those interests enabled Antofagasta to concentrate on the development of the Los Pelambres and El Tesoro mining projects and to become a major low-cost copper producer.
Today, Antofagasta is one of the largest international copper producing companies in the industry. Its activities are mainly concentrated in Chile where it now owns and operates four copper mines: Los Pelambres, Esperanza, El Tesoro and Michilla, with a total production of 640,500 tonnes in 2011, at an average cash cost of 101.9 c/lb.
The Group's mining division, Antofagasta Minerals, is also actively involved in exploration in Chile, elsewhere in the Americas, Europe and Africa. In addition, the Group operates an extensive rail network servicing the important mining region of northern Chile, which is centred on the port of Antofagasta. It also operates a concession for the distribution of water in that region.
Today, Antofagasta plc shares are traded in London under the ANTO code and in the United States, where the company has a level 1 ADR, under the ANFGY code.