Image: Municipality of Tierra Amarilla/Twitter/Reproduction
After months of uncertainty, mining company Ojos de Salgado has finally found a solution to plug the huge hole it opened in Tierra Amarilla, Chile. The company outlined a plan with six lines of action to be implemented by 2023.
In late 2022, the sinkhole reached a depth of 200 meters much more than the estimated 40 meters after the hole’s discovery in late July. It is almost as tall as Brazil’s tallest building in Balneário Camboriú (SC).
According to information from the newspaper AS, it is planned to fill the 36 meter diameter hole with water and put a kind of “lid” over it. More than 1.3 million cubic meters of filtered water are said to come from the aquifer of the Copiapó River. Aquatic manta rays are among those most affected by excessive mineral extraction.
In October, Chilean authorities said the mining company had modified the deposits’ drainage system by installing underground ponds to increase production. The excess water flooded other mines and caused “irreparable damage” to the aquifer.
The mining company’s plan is for the water that rises to the surface to supply other industrial consumers in the area. In return, the mining companies will stop pumping the aquifers.
The lines of action will appear in three phases, namely: 1) identifying the best technical solutions for priority issues; 2) Development of conceptual, basic and detailed engineering; and 3) execution of works.
To avoid infiltration, the walls of the hole are sealed and working sources are protected. Only then will the process of reopening the Alcaparrosa mine, where the sinkhole is located, begin. The plan is expected to be completed in 18 months i.e. by mid2024.
Canadian company Lundin, which is responsible for mining, says the area around the hole in Chile will be “in a similar state” with the solution as it was prior to surfacing.
The current phase is that of studying. Only one sector of the Alcaparrosa mine remains operational the others will be deactivated until the work is complete. Lundin owns 80% of the copper mining activities at the site. The remaining 20% belongs to the Japanese companies Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corporation.