A gigantic sinkhole, equivalent in depth to the entire Trump Tower, appeared suddenly near the town of Tierra Amarilla in Chile, stirring concerns among the locals and raising questions about the possible cause of this incident.
According to Chile’s National Service of Geology and Mining (Sernageomin), the sinkhole, measuring 32 meters (104 feet) in diameter and an estimated 200 meters (656 feet) in depth, was discovered on Saturday, July 30 at the site of the Minera Ojos del Salado copper mine.
Canadian corporation Lundin Mining, the majority stakeholder of the copper mine, acknowledged the sinkhole but maintained that all precautionary measures had been initiated and the situation was under control.
However, locals are concerned about potential future incidents of sinkholes, particularly in populated areas.
Aparece enorme socavón de 25 metros de diámetro en Atacama
El orificio apareció el sábado en la comuna de Tierra Amarilla, Región de Atacama, en terrenos de la operación minera subterránea de cobre Alcaparrosa de Candelaria.
Qué te parece? Te leemos! pic.twitter.com/5r67dNTEsi
— Ladera Sur 🌎 (@ladera_sur) August 1, 2022
As reported, the sinkhole did not cause any human or material damage.
“This event did not affect people, equipment, or facilities both inside and on the surface of the mine. The company suspended the work located in the vertical of the sinkhole, trying, at all times, to protect the people who work in Alcaparrosa. In the same way, Minera Ojos del Salado fenced the perimeter of the sinkhole to protect the community,” said David Montenegro, National Director of Sernageomin, in an official statement.
Despite this, the fear and apprehension among the locals remain palpable.
The mayor of the commune, Cristóbal Zúñiga, expressed his worries, “Today it happened in this space, on an agricultural property, but our greatest fear today is that this could happen in a populated place, on a street, in a school, and protecting the integrity of our inhabitants is our greatest concern at the moment.”
The cause of sinkholes is often natural, usually due to the collapse of the ceiling of an underground cave system. Acidic rainwater can gradually erode away the soluble rock roof, eventually resulting in the ceiling caving in.
However, suspicions among the Tierra Amarilla locals suggest that the sinkhole could be linked to the mining operations in the area, which could have contributed to the instability of the ground.
This conjecture is yet to be substantiated and investigated, and residents are urging Sernageomin and the Chilean Government to act swiftly to determine the cause.
Zúñiga said, “The Government, the National Service of Geology and Mining of Chile (Sernageomin), and this company must be held responsible and it must be investigated quickly, regarding what happened and why…”
The discussion now pivots to whether the sinkhole was a consequence of natural geological processes or a result of mining activity.
“Sernageomin must get its act together and do a good job to clarify whether this is connected to mining activity or due to nature,” Zúñiga emphasized.
This incident underscores the necessity for increased vigilance and comprehensive safety measures in mining operations, especially in regions known for their susceptibility to sinkholes.
If proven that the sinkhole was due to the mining activities, it could herald a broader conversation about the environmental implications of mining and the potential risks it can pose to nearby communities.
Moreover, the occurrence has triggered a sense of urgency in local authorities and residents to have adequate evacuation and emergency plans in place should such incidents happen in populated areas.
While this sinkhole did not lead to any casualties, the fear is that future sinkholes may not be as benign.
Whether the sinkhole is a consequence of natural phenomena or a man-induced mishap remains to be seen.
However, this event serves as a reminder of the delicate balance that exists between human activities and natural ecosystems, and the potential dangers when this balance is disturbed.
As investigations proceed, the people of Tierra Amarilla are hoping for answers, and most importantly, reassurances of their safety.