Chile court extends closure of Lundin copper mine over sinkhole

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

A work stoppage order by a Chilean environmental court on Thursday will prevent Canadian miner Lundin from reopening its Alcaparrosa copper mine, which it closed nearly a year ago after a gaping sinkhole opened in a nearby village.

The environmental court said that a temporary work stoppage was requested by government agency CDE which has filed a lawsuit before the court against the company. The stoppage could last until that trial is complete.

The CDE lawsuit accuses Lundin and its subsidiary of environmental damage in connection with a 118-foot-wide (36-meter-wide) sinkhole in Tierra Amarilla village in northern Chile.

Lundin voluntarily stopped work at the mine in July 2022 when the sinkhole appeared. In November, the company announced a plan to gradually restart the mine over 18 months.

In its statement on Thursday, Lundin said the environmental court’s reasoning was “incomplete” and argued that the lawsuit could hurt its business while it considers an appeal.

“The scenario proposed by the CDE puts in grave risk the continuity of the Alcaparrosa mine,” it said.

Lundin has argued that the sinkhole could have been caused by a number of factors, not all of them related to its mine.

The environmental court also said its decision reflected the “eventual impact” on the Copiapo River aquifer, the company’s noncompliance with environmental permits and imminent risks faced by workers.

Environmental regulator SMA charged the company in October with overexploitation of mineral resources as well as unauthorized construction.

The regulator’s charges could lead to a $13 million fine, plus the withdrawal of the mine’s environmental permit.

Lundin holds an 80% stake in Alcaparrosa, with the remainder held by Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corp.

(By Fabian Cambero; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


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