The Massive sinkhole in Atacama -- Tierra Amarilla as seen from the air. Credit: SERNAGEOMIN.

Massive “Growing” Sinkhole Spotted in Atacama

The sinkhole measures 32 meters across, and a depth of around 64 meters. According to experts, it continues growing.


The gigantic sinkhole was detected last Saturday; since then, it has expanded another 7 meters, now measuring about 32 meters in diameter.

The surprisingly large sinkhole appeared in the Atacama region, a place called Tierra Amarilla (Yellow land).


More specifically, the sinkhole appeared at the Alcaparrosa Mine, which is part of Minera Candelaria owned by Canada’s Lundin Mining company, as per Vice. The sinkhole appeared in a relatively unpopulated part of the Atacama region 400 miles north of the Santiago capital.

“We are concerned since it is a fear that we have always had as a community, the fact of being surrounded by mining deposits and underground works under our commune,” said Cristóbal Zúñiga, mayor of Tierra Amarilla.

A specialized team from the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) was sent to the site as soon as the hole appeared to evaluate the situation on the ground.

According to Franklin Céspedes, director of Sernageomin Atacama, the sinkhole is 32 meters in diameter and 64 meters deep. Located just 600 meters away from the nearest town.

Zúñiga didn’t hesitate to point the finger at the culprit, asserting the sinkhole was caused by “unconscious and excessive extractive activities.”

According to the official, “Here, the Earth is protesting against excessive extractive activity that ignores or is unaware of the negative consequences that it may have on its territory and community.”

“There is a considerable distance … to the bottom,” Sernageomin director David Montenegro said in a statement. “We haven’t detected any material down there, but we have seen the presence of a lot of water.”

According to experts, this is the largest sinkhole that has appeared recently, and officials are very concerned because it is active and continues to grow.

The sinkhole, located within the Alcaparrosa de Candelaria mine, was surrounded by a perimeter of 100 meters. In a statement, Lundin Mining, which owns 80% of the property, stated that personnel, equipment, or infrastructure had not been affected, and the sinkhole had remained stable ever since its discovery, contrary to what the local mayor stated.

According to the company, “development work was temporarily halted in one area as a preventative measure.”


So, how do Sinkholes form then?

The formation of sinkholes occurs when the soil above collapses or sinks into the cavities or when surface material is carried downward into voids. It is possible for sinkholes to form as a result of drought and high groundwater withdrawals.
In many cases, this surface rock is limestone, which is easily eroded by water. In landscapes with limestone beneath the soil, water collects in cracks in the stone as a result of rainfall.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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