A sinkhole measuring 105 feet wide and 656 feet deep opened in the small mining town of Tierra Amarilla, Chile, over 400 miles north of the capital city of Santiago.
Experts are currently investigating the cause, but the sinkhole developed on land that belongs to the Alcaparrosa de Candelaria underground copper mining operation, so there is a strong possibility that the mining process was the catalyst for the massive void to form.
“This event did not affect people, equipment or facilities both inside and on the surface of the mine,” said David Montenegro, National Director of the National Geology and Mining Service. “The company suspended the work located in the vertical of the sinkhole, trying, at all times, to protect the people who work in Alcaparrosa.”
The sinkhole, which is currently stable, was first detected on July 30. Mining company spokesman Mark Turner said they were “conducting a technical analysis and gathering information to determine the cause of the event.”
Montenegro said experts “haven’t detected any material [in the sinkhole], but…have seen the presence of a lot of water.” He added that they are making sure “all safety measures are taken to safeguard the lives of workers and communities close to the site.”
Cristian Zuniga, mayor of Tierra Amarilla, asked that the sinkhole’s “cause be clarified” – whether the collapse happened because of “mining activity or something else.”
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, several natural occurrences can cause sinkholes to form, including the shifting of groundwater gradients and even seasonal changes. However, there is plenty of evidence that mining also impacts the environment and can cause the ground to collapse.