Experts in Chile were on Tuesday investigating a huge sinkhole, bigger than a tennis court, that appeared near a copper mine in the Atacama desert.
Experts were sent to examine the hole, about 32 meters (104 feet) in diameter and twice as deep, which appeared in an area nearly 500 miles north of Santiago over the weekend, the National Geology and Mines Service (Sernageomin) he said in a statement.
A 100m safety perimeter has been erected around the hole in the municipality of Tierra Amarilla, near the Alcaparrosa mine operated by Canadian company Lundin Mining.
The company said in a statement that there were “no impacts to personnel, equipment or infrastructure” and the sinkhole has remained stable since it was identified.
As a precautionary measure, “development work in an area of the Alcaparrosa underground mine has been temporarily suspended,” the company said.
Sernageomin director David Montenegro said experts would try to determine the cause of the collapse and “ensure that all safety measures are taken to safeguard the lives of workers and communities near the site”.
Cristian Zuniga, mayor of the Tierra Amarilla municipality of about 13,000 residents, told reporters the sinkhole was unprecedented.
“We are asking for the cause to be clarified: whether the collapse is a product of mining activity or something else,” he said.
Chile is the world’s largest copper producer, responsible for a quarter of the world’s supply.