The mysterious 36.5-meter (120-foot) diameter hole that surfaced in late July has provoked the mobilization of local authorities, prompting mining regulator Sernageomin to shut down operations at a nearby mine owned by Canadian company Lundin im belongs to the northern district of Candelaria.
“We will go all the way with consequences, sanctions, not just fines,” Mines Minister Marcela Hernando said in a press release, adding that fines are usually insignificant and the verdict must be “exemplary” for mining companies.
Chilean authorities have not released any details about the investigation into the causes of the sinkhole.
Local and foreign media showed various aerial photos of the huge hole in a field near the Lundin mine, some 665 kilometers (413 miles) north of the Chilean capital. Originally, near the town of Tierra Amarilla, the hole was about 25 meters (82 ft) in diameter, with water visible at the bottom.
The Canadian company owns 80% of the property, while the remaining 20% is owned by Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd and Sumitomo Corp.
The minister added that while the country’s Mining Inspectorate conducted an inspection in the area in July, it was unable to identify “overexploitation”.
“It also makes us think we need to reformulate our inspection processes,” she said.
In a statement, Lundin said the overexploitation mentioned by the minister had been duly reported.
“We would like to emphasize that this hypothesis, as reported by Sernageomin, has not been determined as a direct cause of the sinkhole to date. The hydrogeological and mining studies will provide the answers we are looking for today,” said Lundin.
“Various events that may have caused the sinkhole are being investigated, including the unusual rainfall recorded in July, which is relevant,” Lundin added.