Some of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas were in hunter-gatherer-fisher-miner communities, based on new discoveries confirming the oldest known mining activities. A study in the June issue of Current Anthropology found evidence for mining of iron oxides in Chile, taking place 12,000 - 10,500 years ago [photo credit, Current Anthropology].
"This discovery has important implications, including (1) the record of undisputed mining activity in the continent is extended by several millennia, showing the first insights into Early Archaic mining techniques and technologies; (2) the earliest inhabitants of the Pacific Coast of South America had a well-developed mining knowledge, that is, they were hunter-gatherer-fisher-miner communities; and (3) mobility patterns of early nomadic maritime adaptations in northern Chile were influenced by repeated access to iron oxide pigments used mainly for symbolic purposes."
News reports say "Before this find, a North American copper mine dated to between 4,500 and 2,600 years ago was the oldest known in the Americas."
Early Evidence (ca. 12,000 BP) for Iron Oxide Mining on the Pacific Coast of South America(pp. 463-475),Diego Salazar, D. Jackson, J. L. Guendon, H. Salinas, D. Morata, V. Figueroa, G. Manríquez, V. Castro, DOI: 10.1086/659426