What is NGMP?

The National Geological Mapping Program (NGMP) is a Programmatic Initiative developed by the Department of General Geology of the SERNAGEOMIN National Sub-direction of Geology, whose main goal is to provide the state of Chile with the geoscientific knowledge of national territory required for the sustainable development of the country, in pursuit of the well-being and security of the population.

The prompt availability and appropriate application of the geoscientific base information provided by the NGMP contributes to improving the quality of people’s lives, regarding its well-being (e.g., job opportunities, increased of the per capita income, and availability of groundwater) and safety (e.g., the making of regulatory plans that consider geological hazards: seismic, volcanic, and mass removal; and the elaboration hazard alerts, like volcanic eruptions).

Through the publishing of geologic mapping at different scales, and the spread of the geological territory knowledge, geoscientific information contributes to the encouragement of the exploration and sustainable use of country’s geological resources (minerals, energetics, and waters), plus the development and territory management of other strategic productive sectors.

Through this, the PNG puts at the disposal of the authorities and the general population key information for the virtuous, sustainable, inclusive, and supportive progress of the nation.

Overall Aim

To generate geoscientific knowledge on national territory through the development of three specialized programs: Basic Geology , Geochemistry and Geophysics. This, for the characterization and modeling of geological elements that flourish in the surface as well as other elements that can be found in the subsurface, and its delivery to the communities through information (data) publishing and different types of elaborated products (technical reports, maps at different scales, databases, scientific papers).

Specific Aims

  • To complement the geological mapping coverage of the national territory, at different scales, for the three scientific programs.
  • To contribute to the country's sustainable mineral, energetic, and water resources exploration.
  • To provide the needed base information (geological baselines) for the development of strategic productive sectors and to improve the quality of life of the population.


One of the key factors that relapses in the competitiveness of exploration activity, and general mining development, is the basic geological information available (1, 2). In Chile, the National Geological Mapping Program (NGMP) implementation in 2011 by the National Geology and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN), agency reliant on the Ministry of Mining of Chile, responded to this neediness to rely on new and accessible Pre-competitive Geoscientific Information (IGP).

The NGMP, as the only development and pre-competitive geoscientific information for public access initiative at country level, is the state’s investment project, by excellence, focused on increasing Chilean mining competitiveness and production. This initiative reflects the complete SERNAGEOMIN role as the only state institution responsible for providing this type of information for the communities' benefit.

According to the Chilean Minnig and Development Commission of the National Innovation Council for Competitiveness (1), some challenges to strengthen national mining leadership at global level and to increase its contribution to Chileans’ well-being are:

  • Access to geological information
  • Mining development in the central zone of Chile
  • Water availability

One of the ten commitments (taken in 2015) of the "Institutional Framework for a Virtuous, Sustainable and Inclusive Mining Industry", defined by the previous mentioned commission (1), is to strengthen the geological information available along with the creation of a geological resources database, in accordance with the government’s pro-investment agenda and with the example of more advanced mining economies. As mentioned, the PNG is the only state program on geological information contribution, and one of its goals is to progress in the country's geological database completion (thematic mapping). Today the surveyed information and created knowledge by this program are delivered to the population through the institutional platforms like the Portal GEOMIN.

Provided that a significant part of the future mining of the country will develop in the central zone (IV-VII regions), where the available mining resources corresponds to 16% of the world’s cooper reserves and 50% of the national mining potential, but where almost 60% of the population inhabits and multiple significant activities for the country are developed, it is imperative to know the challenges and obstacles for mining development in those areas, as well as to create the public baselines and to plan the territory purposes for their environmental and economic sustainability.

In its second development phase (2020-2024) the PNG will approach part of the national Southern-Central zone territories. The information regarding the Central Macrozone will be the base for the potential mining exploration focused in the sector and will provide geological conditions acknowledgment for mining activity development (e.g., feasibility places for the passive environmental layouts, contamination vulnerable zones); as well as for the definition of environmental lines (developed by the PNG's geochemistry sediment program) and for the development of geology projects for territorial planning.

Water availability, as for human consumption and productive use, is an urgent challenge, key for the future. Sustainable mining must integrate the operational designs that will affect water resources, as for its extraction and quality. Moreover, this issue has a high impact on the community, due to the relevant presence of other productive activities, such as agriculture and tourism, but also regarding the megadrought event that has impacted central Chile between 2010 and 2020, and potential climatic change impacts in the zone. The thematic mapping of basic geology, geophysics, and geochemistry developed by the PNG is the base for any hydrogeology study prospect, vulnerability, or groundwater contamination. This proves, even more, the value of the PNG's information in a zone with particularly scarce geoscientific information (3).

Another commitment is to strengthen environmental institutionalism capacity, in particular the aim is to develop a high standard control and quality laboratory certification program. In this sense, the Laboratory Department of the National Sub-direction of Geology has a unique analytic capacity in Chile and at the highest global level intended, in part, for environmental studies. Furthermore, this unit plays a key role as an in-house analytic base for the well and prompt NGMPs’ development. As part of its implementation strategy, the NGMP has financed a series of investments in equipment, inputs, human resources, and training, improving our laboratory standards.

Socioeconomic Benefits and International Experiences

National and international studies have proven the importance on developing state initiatives focused on the IGP and its long-term socioeconomical, direct and indirect, benefits for the countries. Similar NGMP programs are currently in later development stages in countries considered as potential mining global powers and whose economies, like the Chilean one, have a significant component in this area, like Canada, the United States, Australia, among others.

A recent national study (4) proved that the NGMP, in the 2011-2017 period, would generate to the state, in the long-term, a return order of 1,000-2,000 million CLP, with a positive benefit-cost relationship (between 0.1-47 for different economic scenarios) and a 20% IRR. Therefore, for every dollar invested by the state in geoscientific information a return of 11.5 USD would be expected, in mining taxes alone. In this study the indirect benefits of the program are not discussed but have been widely identified by other international studies for alternate programs. Some of its benefits are job gains, qualification of skilled labor force, training and education, well-being for the workers’ environment, among others (watch here the video presentation of this study).

In two years (2015-2016), the state of southern Australia invested 20 million AUD in an equivalent NGMP program (called “PACE”: Plan for Accelerating Exploration, that at this phase focused on regional aero geophysics, core drilling, generation of precompetitive data, and interpretation/modeling) to face the decrease in exploration investment, resulting in an increase in unemployment. This program, existing since 2004, showed, like the PNG, a significant investment return for the state (20:1 in the 2004-2013 period), reaching $400 million and creating almost 1,000 new jobs (direct and indirect) (5).

In the same way, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Canada has been promoting the Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals(GEM)program for years, which during 2016 focused on the northern zone of the country. Its methodology, like the PNG, consists in geological and aero geophysical data and mapping generation. Its impact is focused on the community’s well-being, mineral exploration activity, territorial planning, gas and petrol local industries, and decision making (6).


The NGMP implementation in 2011 meant almost tripling the SERNAGEOMIN basic geology mapping (scale of 1:100,000) rate: considering the maps made since the 90's until the beginning of the NGMP, an average increase of three to eight maps yearly was shown (publishing’s database available in printed and/or digital format). Moreover, the NGMP's implementation gave birth to the first geochemistry drainage sediments systematic surveyed samples program, at regional and national scale, just like the regional airborne geophysical, magnetometry and radiometry on the national territory survey program.

Workflow for geological mapping

Each PNG specialist program provides geoscientific knowledge on its topic, and creates several types of products, identified by the institution as "strategic products" (watch here the SERNAGEOMIN 2020 strategic definitions), among them we have:

  • Different scale maps (published in the corresponding Thematic Series of the Geological Chile Nappe: Basic Geological Serie, Geochemical Serie, Geophysical Serie; more details here)
  • Interactive maps (in PDF interactive format)
  • Databases (in Excel, Access, or GeoDataBase formats)
  • Technical Reports (unedited technical reports; more details here)
  • Scientific papers (preferably published in the Andean Geology magazine)
  • Bulletin (edited serial published, more details here)


All these scientific products of high technical complexity elaboration, which consider an editorialpeer review, aim to ensure neutrality and quality of the results.

In the basic geology maps case, scale of 1:100,000 (areas of 2.500 km2 approx.), the average developing time for each mentioned product is around 3 years. Their production considers a team made up of 2 to 3 geologists through a  SIG analyst. The workflow for this kind of projects has been certified in a quality control frame systemunder the ISO 9001:2008/2015 standard, for the past 7 years (2013-2019). The workflow can be summarized as follows (Figure 1):


  • Production Phase, includes the following activities:
    1. design and planning
    2. background review
    3. sample, data, and observations acquisition
    4. analytic laboratory processing
    5. production activities (analysis results, modeling, map construction, monograph writing)
    6. inner quality control (inner institutional pairs review)


  • Post Production Phase, includes the following activities:
    1. editorial quality control (external institution pairs review)
    2. digital quality control (integrity and database competitiveness)
    3. language review
    4. layout
    5. publishing (web and library)
    6. promulgation


Figure 1.Simplified geological mapping production process scheme applied for the three PNG scientific programs.



As of December 2019, the National Geological Mapping Program (NGMP) has published a large number of products, of a different nature, in each its study areas, along with numerous geology titles and postgraduate projects from several Chilean universities, professional practices, disseminations activities, seminars, work sessions, among other activities related to the medium.


Phase 2010-2019

The first phase of the National Geological Mapping Program was performed between 2010 and 2019 (Figure 2) and included its three scientific program surveys from part of the comprehended territory between the 18° and 30° south latitudes (Northern Macrozone: 271,773 km2, 36.5% Continental Chile surface). According to several technical criteria (feasibility of the study, work scale, among others), different coverage goals (km2) were established that comprehend part of the that macrozone for each scientific program (Chart 2; Figure 3).


Figure 2.Timeline of few of the major milestones of the first NGMP implementation phase (2010-2019).



Chart 2: scope, aim, and improvements (up to 2019) of each NGMP scientific program.


During this first phase, program deliverables (products) were restricted to geological maps, at different scales, in the three thematic areas, namely:

  • Geological Map Sheets, scale of 1:100,000.
  • Geophysical Map Sheets, scale of 1:100,000, with the magnetometry and spectrometry of the gamma rays (and their databases as a complementary product).
  • Geochemical Maps of drainage sediments, scale of 1:250,000 (and their databases as a complementary product).


In this way, significant progress was made in geoscientific information coverage in the national territory on the three scientific programs. For example, the basic geology mapping coverage (scale of 1:100,000) of the Continental Chile surface increased 20% from 19.5% in 2010 up to 39.5% in 2019 (Figure 3).


Figure 3: Maps of Chile that show the mapping coverage for the three NGMP scientific programs. From left to right: Basic Geology (scale of 1:100,000), Geochemistry (scale of 1:250,000), and Geophysics (magnetometry and spectrometry) (scale of 1:100,000). The maps already published are in red, and the developing mapping projects in yellow. This information can be referred in detail in our GEOMAP Viewer.



Geological Chile, a country of contrast

The North Zone of Chile is characterized by the presence of many significant copper, gold, and silver deposits in the country, as well as having the complete lithium, nitrate, iodine deposits, and, in the past decades, it is where the major exploration for new resources investments have been focused due to its high geological potential*. For fieldwork, its access is generally good (plenty of roads for mules and off-road vehicles, little population/private property), it is likely to work practically the whole year (regular climate), in exception of the High Cordillera, and rock exposure is absolute (Figure 4).

The Central Zone of Chile is characterized by a high percentage of population concentration (74%), where productive activities that based on ground use (farming, agriculture, and forestry) are developed in great part of its surface. Consequently, it is highly prone to contamination, and in the past few decades it has registered a historical magnitude drought. Therefore, it is also the greatest vulnerability zone (human lives, infrastructure) against geological hazards. In addition, a high geological potential* is estimated (like the one in the North Zone). Its accessibility is limited (plenty of private property and hard to access the High Cordillera) and the fieldwork is reduced to certain times of the year (Figure 4).

The South Zone presents similar characteristics to the Central Zone, although there are less inhabited populations. It is equally vulnerable to geological hazards (with many active volcanoes, according to the RNVV ranking) and contamination. Here, lots of economic and, specially, touristic activities are focused on (high geo heritage potential). It has less geologic potential* than the northern zones, but at the same time, it is a poorly explored zone (no geological baselines nor state environmental). Its accessibility is limited (plenty of private property) and fieldwork is reduced to certain times of the year (Figure 4).

The Extreme South is a poorly explored zone but highly strategical. It concentrates the only hydrocarbon deposits exploited by the Chilean State. It is a natural entry point to the Antarctic, including the Strait of Magellan zone (international trade) and its geological evolution is directly related to one on the white continent. It presents significant tourist activity.

 (*) relative to the probability of finding favorable geological conditions (in time and space) for a rare mineral concentration occur and likely to form a deposit.

But its main characteristic is to concentrate the biggest sweet water reserves in the world (Campos de Hielo) and to be a Biosphere reserve. The geological economic potential is in full growth, with relevant signs of polymetallic and gold deposits (Figure 4).

Each one of the Chilean territory zones presents a geological conformation that makes it unique and special, therefore, it is subject to be studied individually. An important consideration in each one of them is their geography and the existence of different morpho structural elements, like the coast mountain range, central depression, transverse valleys, pampas, pre-Cordillera and main cordillera, fjords, that match with the feasibility and costs of the geological survey for each one. In the same way, the working methods vary, from a minor scale survey (greater detail), mainly from the terrain, like in the North Zone, to a prioritized/focused terrain at a higher scale survey (less detail), with remote analysis technologies (satellite, airborne sensors) contribution, as in the Extreme South.



Figure 4. Scheme of the four main "Macrozones" defined for the national territory based on some geological characteristics like the presence of metallic deposits, geological mining potential, geological hazards relevance, water scarcity. Note that the Central Zone only represents 17.3% of the Continental Chile surface, still 74% of the country's population live here. The National Geological Mapping Program is currently developing many projects in this macrozone.


2020-2024 Phase

In 2020, the National Geological Mapping Program started a new developing phase, whose first phase lasts for five years, but whose general goals are beyond that period. The gained experience in the first phase along with noticeable changes in the geoscientific information demand, have led us to define other goals (and new deliverables) for this phase. Thus, the geological survey in the three scientific programs will not be restricted to a specific zone, and projects all over our national territorywill be carried out. On the other hand, the project engagement has been established for a five yearsperiod to be able to reevaluate the scope and aims of the program in an intermediate term, and to be more reactive and timelier to new citizen demands.

As mentioned above, the wide use and demand range for geological information demand requires us to widen the perspective to satisfy new and different citizens requirements. Unlike the first phase, when the aim was to increase the mapping coverage with the almost exclusive publishing of geological maps, in this new phase the delivery of different types of productshas been engaged, to reach different users in diverse formats. Furthermore, the publishing of new results in the SIG platforms and GdB formatwill be prioritized, facilitating the online information request through our website Portal GEOMIN, even from mobile devices. The types of products that will be published in this phase are:


  • Different scale maps and their respective databases (published in the Thematic Series of the Geological Chile Nappe: Basic Geological Serie, Geochemical Serie, Geophysical Serie; more details here)
  • Interactive maps (in PDF interactive and SIG formats)
  • Databases (in Excel, Access, or GeoDataBase formats)
  • Technical Reports (unedited technical reports; more details here)
  • Scientific papers (preferably published in the Andean Geology magazine)
  • Bulletin (edited serial published, more details here)


Therefore, during 2020, 26 new projects across the country will be developed and its results will be published in the second phase.



  1. Hacia una Estrategia Nacional de Innovación para la Competitividad. 2008. Agenda de prioridades estratégicas para una minería Virtuosa, Incluyente y Sostenible. Comisión Minería y Desarrollo de Chile del Consejo Nacional de Innovación para la Competitividad, Santiago.
  2. Hoja de Ruta 2.0 de la Minería Chilena, Actualización y consensos para una mirada renovada. 2019. Corporación Alta Ley, Santiago (LINK).
  3. Estado de la Actividad Minera al Sur del País. 2016. Dirección de Estudios y Políticas Públicas, Corporación Chilena del Cobre, Santiago.
  4. Gildemeister, M., Jara, J. J., Lagos, G., Marquardt, C., Espinoza, F. 2018. Direct economic return to government of public geoscience information investments in Chile. Resources Policy 55: 152-162.
  5. PACE Copper, South Australia (LINK)
  6. GEM Program, Canadá (LINK)