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Chilean authorities suspend Alcaparrosa’s operations due to giant sinkhole

Sinkhole at the Alcaparrosa mine. (Image by Sernageomin, Twitter).

Chile’s National Geology and Mining Service, Sernageomin, ordered a temporary suspension of activities at Lundin Mining’s (TSX: LUN) Alcaparrosa mine following the opening of a giant sinkhole above the underground operation.

The sinkhole, which emerged on July 30, is 50 meters in diameter and 200 meters deep.

In a statement posted on social media, Sernageomin said the decision was made in response to safety concerns of the nearby Tierra Amarilla community and also to support the work of the experts conducting an investigation into the causes of the accident.

Sernageomin also said that it has issued sanctions against Candelaria, the subsidiary that operates the Candelaria complex in Chile’s northern Atacama region, where Alcaparrosa is located.

Alcaparrosa is one of two underground mines that make up the Ojos del Salado operation within the Candelaria complex. 

Over the weekend, the National Geology and Mining Service staff worked on verifying if there were water leaks in Alcaparrosa’s different galleries. They said the situation seems under control thanks to the water pumps that have been installed.

“In the next few days, we will be working on assessing the state of the mine’s chambers, particularly the one located underneath the sinkhole, which is thought to be overexploited,” the release reads.

On Wednesday, Candelaria issued a communiqué stating that everything was under control, even though the causes of the sinkhole remained unclear. The miner avoided linking the accident to its deep underground workings.

Candelaria produced 118,600 metric tonnes of copper in 2021. The complex is indirectly owned by Lundin (80%) and Sumitomo (20%), with the former acquiring its stake from Freeport-McMoRan Inc. in 2014.