Massive Sinkhole in South America Doubles in Size, Is Large Enough To Engulf France’s Arc de Triompe

by Emily Morgan

A colossal sinkhole in Chile has doubled in size, growing massive enough to engulf France’s iconic Arc de Triomphe. As a result, Chilean officials have ordered work to halt at a nearby copper mine.

The sinkhole, which first emerged on July 30, now stretches 160 feet wide and drops down over 650 feet. In addition to the Arc de Triomphe, Seattle’s Space Needle would also fit in the pit.

On Saturday, the National Service of Geology and Mining said the department is still investigating the giant hole near the Alcaparrosa mine ran by Canadian company Lundin Mining, about 400 miles north of Santiago.

In addition to ordering all work to end, the geology and mining service said it was starting a “sanctioning process.” However, the agency did not provide specific details on that action.

Last week, the company said the sinkhole did not currently affect workers or local residents and was working to determine the cause of the gaping hole. At this time, Lundin owns 80% of the property, and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation holds the rest.

When it first broke ground, the hole was about 82 feet wide, with water visible at the base. The geology and mining service said it has installed water extraction pumps at the mine. They will also investigate the mine’s underground chambers in the next few days for potential over-extraction.

Chile seeking ‘harsh sanctions’ on whoever’s responsible for giant sinkhole

However, the town’s officials have been paniced that the Alcaparrosa mine could have flooded belowground, destabilizing the surrounding land. According to the town’s mayor, Cristobal Zuniga, it would be “something completely out of the ordinary.”

Now, Chile will seek to apply a harsh punishment on those responsible for the sinkhole, the mining minister said on Monday.

“We are going to go all the way with consequences, to sanction, not just fine,” mining minister Marcela Hernando said. She added that fines tend to be insignificant and the punishment must be “exemplary” to mining companies.

The minister added that although Chile’s mining regulator had inspected the area in July, it could not predict the “over-exploitation.”

“That also makes us think that we have to reformulate what our inspection processes are,” she said.

In a statement, Lundin said the over-exploitation referred to by the minister had been reported.

“We want to be emphatic that, to date, this hypothesis as reported by Sernageomin has not been determined as the direct cause of the sinkhole. The hydrogeological and mining studies will provide the answers we are looking for today,” Lundin said.

“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.