Chile sinkhole grows large enough to swallow France’s Arc de Triomphe

August 8, 2022 - 12:10 PM
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. (Reuters/Johan Godoy)

A sinkhole in Chile has doubled in size, growing large enough to engulf France’s Arc de Triomphe and prompting officials to order work to stop at a nearby copper mine.

The sinkhole, which emerged on July 30, now stretches 50 meters (160 feet) across and goes down 200 meters (656 feet). Seattle’s Space Needle would also comfortably fit in the black pit, as would six Christ the Redeemer statues from Brazil stacked head-to-head, giant arms outstretched.

The National Service of Geology and Mining said late on Saturday it is still investigating the gaping hole near the Alcaparrosa mine operated by Canadian company Lundin Mining LUN.TO, about 665 km (413 miles) north of Santiago.

In addition to ordering all work to stop, the geology and mining service said it was starting a “sanctioning process.” The agency did not provide details on what that action would involve.

Lundin did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The company last week said the hole did not affect workers or community members and that it was working to determine the cause.

Lundin owns 80% of the property and the rest is held by Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation.

Initially, the hole near the town of Tierra Amarilla measured about 25 meters (82 feet) across, with water visible at the bottom.

The geology and mining service 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, destabilizing the surrounding land. It would be “something completely out of the ordinary,” Tierra Amarilla Mayor Cristobal Zuniga told local media.

—Reporting by Marion Giraldo; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Lisa Shumaker