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Chile's Massive Sinkhole Could Further Collapse

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By Shella Artillero - - 5 Mins Read

According to Chilean officials, a security perimeter has been established since the region surrounding a copper mine where a sinkhole suddenly appeared is at a significant danger of future collapse.

The strange hole, which measures 36.5 meters in diameter, first appeared in late July. Government agencies and the mine's owners are investigating its origins.

The Committee for Disaster Risk Management of Chile's northern Atacama region determined on Saturday night local time that the area is at a high risk of developing new fractures or sinking near the Alcaparrosa mine, which is located about 665 kilometers north of Santiago.

"Considering that the said scenario presents a threat to the life and physical integrity of people, access to said zone has been restricted until the technical studies warrant it," the emergency office says on its website.

The land is owned by Lundin Mining Corp. of Canada to the tune of 80%, with Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corp. of Japan holding the remaining 20%.

A senior official of the mining business recently stated that additional research was required to ascertain the phenomena's genesis, despite the government's claims that the corporation overexploited the deposit and caused the phenomenon.

The mine's operations have ceased.

According to the government and the business, Tierra Amarilla, a neighboring community, is currently not in danger.


On August 1, the Chilean National Geology and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN) said the sinkhole was 25 m (82 feet) wide but on August 2 it increased the diameter to 32 m (105 feet). According to the agency, the hole is around 200 m (625 feet) wide, making it one of the deepest known sinkholes in the world.

“There is a considerable distance, approximately 200 m (656 feet), to the bottom,” the agency’s director David Montenegro said in a statement. “We haven’t detected any material down there, but we have seen the presence of a lot of water.”1

At the moment, it’s not clear if the collapse is the result of mining activity or something else, but SERNAGEOMIN has launched an official investigation and suspended all activities in the mine on August 6.

The first investigations indicate that it could be the collapse of a mansion or cavern that appears once all the mineral is extracted.

A similar event occurred in November 2013, also in Tierra Amarilla, when 30 m (98 feet) wide and 30 m deep sinkhole appeared due to the collapse of a cavern located 450 m (1 476 feet) from the surface.

The crater appeared on a hill located in one of the seven most important mining operations that were then in Tierra Amarilla, and also near a populated area, which led the neighbors to file a complaint.