A massive sinkhole, which emerged in Chile at the end of July, has continued to widen — doubling in size.
When first noted in late July, the sinkhole was estimated to be about 82 feet across. This week, the hole is estimated to be 160 feet wide, according to Reuters.
Reuters noted that the giant sinkhole goes down 656 feet, which means the Space Needle in Seattle could fit within it, as could the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, or six of the Brazilian Christ the Redeemer statues.
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 28, 2022
Local officials are worried that flooding in a nearby copper mine could have destabilized the ground around it.
That would be “something completely out of the ordinary,” Tierra Amarilla Mayor Cristobal Zuniga said.
The copper mine is run by Lundin Mining of Canada, which is feuding with the government over responsibility for the sinkhole.
The Committee for Disaster Risk Management of the Atacama region has declared the area a disaster area, according to the Australian Broadcast Corp.
“Considering that the said scenario presents a threat to the life and physical integrity of people, access to said zone has been restricted until the technical studies warrant it,” the office announced.
The government’s concern is that the mine has taken so much out of the ground that mining activity allowed the sinkhole to form. The mine is currently shut down due to the sinkhole.
The government has installed water extraction pumps in the mine and will be probing the mine for signs of over-extraction, Reuters reported.
Federal officials have said they will get tough on the company if they can prove it is at fault.
“We are going to go all the way with consequences, to sanction, not just fine,” mining minister Marcela Hernando said in a news release, according to CNN.
She said that a July inspection found no signs of “over-exploitation.”
“That also makes us think that we have to reformulate what our inspection processes are,” she added.
The company has said that mining activity alone is not to blame.
“Different events that could have caused the sinkhole are being investigated, including the abnormal rainfall recorded during the month of July, which is relevant,” added Lundin.
Luis Sanchez, an official with the mining company said “soil composition, climatic episodes like 2017 mudslides, July’s rains and, of course, the mining activity under the sinkhole,” according to U.S. News and World Report.
Sanchez said the company’s studies show the local subsoil has a clay-calcareous composition, which “could have caused a progressive degeneration” that can lead to sinkholes.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.