Chile sinkhole DOUBLES in size to 160ft wide and more than 650ft deep – large enough to engulf France’s Arc de Triomphe – days after it appeared near small town
- The 82-foot-wide hole mysteriously appeared on July 30 in the commune of Tierra Amarilla, Atacama region
- It has now almost doubled in size to measure 160ft across, is believed to be 656ft deep, and is still growing
- Terrifying phenomenon took place close to the Alcaparrosa mine and is inching ever closer to residential area
- Local mayor Cristobal Zuniga spoke of the fear held by nearby residents of excessive mining in the area
- But it has not yet been established whether the sinkhole is directly related to nearby mining operations
- Officials from Chile’s national geology agency have been dispatched to investigate the unsettling spectacle
- The agency ordered the mining corporation to cease all work immediately while they conduct analyses
A sinkhole which suddenly appeared in Chile 10 days ago has now doubled in size and forced officials to halt operations at a nearby copper mine as local residents fear for their homes.
The sinkhole, which emerged on July 30, now stretches 160 feet across – large enough to swallow France’s Arc de Triomphe – and is a whopping 656ft deep.
Seattle’s Space Needle would comfortably fit in the black pit, as would six of Rio De Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statues stacked head-to-toe.
Chile’s National Service of Geology and Mining (Sernageomin) said at the weekend it is still investigating the gaping hole near the Alcaparrosa mine about 413 miles north of the capital Santiago, and had ordered all work at the site to stop.
Lundin, the Canadian mining corporation which operates the mine, said last week said the hole did not affect workers or community members and that it was working to determine the cause, but confirmed mining operations were stopped.
The hole near the small town of Tierra Amarilla first sprang up overnight on July 30 and measured about 82 feet across, with water visible at the bottom.
Sernageomin said it has installed water extraction pumps at the mine and in the next few days would investigate the mine’s underground chambers for potential over-extraction.
Local officials have expressed worry that the Alcaparrosa mine could have flooded below ground, destabilising the surrounding land.
It would be ‘something completely out of the ordinary,’ Tierra Amarilla Mayor Cristobal Zuniga told local media.
A sinkhole which suddenly appeared in Chile almost two weeks ago has now doubled in size and forced officials to halt operations at a nearby copper mine as local residents fear for their homes
A sinkhole that was exposed last week has doubled in size, at a mining zone close to Tierra Amarilla town, in Copiapo, Chile, August 7, 2022
Chile’s National Service of Geology and Mining said at the weekend it is still investigating the gaping hole near the Alcaparrosa mine about 413 miles north of the capital Santiago, and had ordered all work at the site to stop
The sinkhole, which emerged on July 30, now stretches 160 feet across – large enough to swallow France’s Arc de Triomphe – and is a whopping 656ft deep
Chilean media first released aerial images of the strange phenomenon on July 31, when Zuniga confirmed the presence of the sinkhole 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,’ he said at the time.
‘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.
A sinkhole is a hole in the ground created by erosion and the drainage of water.
They can range in size from a few feet in diameter to enormous, gaping chasms, and are typically a natural phenomenon but can be amplified by human processes and interference such as mining.
Sinkholes generally form when loose earth and soluble rock, such as limestone, becomes too moist and begins to erode rapidly.
This causes the land to crumble, creating a sinkhole which can either slowly develop, or appear all at once as the earth falls away.
Slow developing ones are known as cover-subsidence sinkholes, while those that appear suddenly, such as this one in Chile, are called cover-collapse sinkholes.
The sudden holes which seize headlines are by far the most dangerous due to their unexpected nature and often cause destruction of buildings and fatalities.
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 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 metres, 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.
Lundin Mining Corporation, majority owners of the mine where the sinkhole appeared, confirmed the phenomenon was detected on July 31 and on August 1 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.
Atacama Region official Gerardo Tapia ordered the National Geology and Mining Service, known as Sernageomin, to establish why the sinkhole appeared
This image shows the proximity of the giant sinkhole to the Lundin Mining Corporation-owned mine and the nearby town of Tierra Amarilla
‘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,’ the mining corporation said
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
Authorities are investigating whether mining and subterranean operations contributed to the appearance of the sinkhole
There have been a number of reports of sinkholes emerging in Australia in recent weeks following a period of heavy flooding.
Sinkholes often spring up after bouts of severe wet weather, because the excess water seeps into the ground and begins to erode the earth under the surface.
An Australian farm house in Richmond Lowlands, north west of Sydney, was destroyed earlier this month after it crumbled into a huge sinkhole which appeared after heavy rain and flooding along the Hawkesbury River.
It came as the Archerfield farm was recovering after being hit by a third major flood since the start of 2022.
Meanwhile in March, a major NSW highway was closed for repairs after a sinkhole swallowed huge chunks of the road, and families in the Blue Mountains were forced to evacuate after sinkholes and landslides threatened to engulf their homes following days of torrential rain.
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