The desert mining region of Antofagasta, Chile, enjoyed spectacular economic growth in the 1990s as a result of foreign direct investment (FDI), mainly in the exploitation of the region’s rich copper deposits. In a country considered by international financial institutions to be a good example of economic performance, Antofagasta has been termed a model region,and Chile’s economic and social development in the 1990s has been considered a suitable model for other Latin American countries. However, development indices based on statistical data must be examined with caution, as human welfare does not necessarily keep pace with economic growth. This article analyses the Antofagasta Region in terms of problems that may occur in conjunction with accelerated economic growth, and how these can affect the environment, as well as the regional labour market. The article also examines a regional economic strategy for Antofagasta recently proposed by the local government, and suggests new alternatives for the sustainable economic development of the region.