An enormous sinkhole linked to a copper mine in northern Chile which materialised this weekend has been captured in stunning new images.
The 82-foot-wide hole mysteriously appeared on Saturday in the commune of Tierra Amarilla in the Atacama Region, close to the giant Alcaparrosa mine, and is thought to be more than 650ft deep.
Chilean media released aerial images of the strange phenomenon which took place on land operated by a Canadian Lundin Mining copper mine, about 413 miles north of the capital Santiago.
Local mayor Cristobal Zuniga on Sunday confirmed the presence of the sinkhole, which is located right on the outskirts of the town, and spoke of the fear held by nearby residents that excessive mining in the area could have catastrophic consequences.
‘Yesterday [Saturday, 30th July] we received a citizen complaint regarding a sinkhole that occurred here in our community near the Alcaparrosa mine.
‘We are concerned, since it is a fear that we have always had as a community, the fact we are surrounded by mining deposits and subterranean works under our community.‘
There is no official confirmation yet that the sinkhole was caused by activities related to mining, but local officials say the hole is still growing.
Mayor Zuniga said: ‘It is still active, it is still growing and it is something that has not previously been seen in our community.‘
Atacama Region official Gerardo Tapia ordered the National Geology and Mining Service, known as Sernageomin, to establish why the sinkhole appeared.
Sernageomin’s director David Montenegro later confirmed the organisation had sent specialist personnel to the area to conduct analyses.
‘There is a considerable distance, approximately 200 meters, to the bottom,‘ Montenegro said. ‘We haven’t detected any material down there, but we have seen the presence of a lot of water.‘
No injuries have been reported and officials continue to monitor the area, though locals are concerned that the hole, which appeared out of nowhere, is continuing to grow.
The Lundin Mining Corporation, majority owners of the mine where the sinkhole appeared, confirmed the phenomenon was detected on Saturday and said it had suspended work in the area pending Sernageomin’s tests.
The corporation said in a statement: ‘Upon detection, the area was immediately isolated and the relevant regulatory authorities notified.
‘There has been no impact to personnel, equipment or infrastructure.
‘The surficial sinkhole has remained stable since detection. Minera Ojos del Salado is conducting a technical analysis and gathering information to determine the cause of the event.‘
Lundin Mining owns 80 per cent of the property and the rest is held by Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation. [DM]
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