Chile’s SMA environmental regulator said on Tuesday it had issued a series of measures against a copper mine owned by Canada’s Lundin Mining Corp after a sinkhole opened up near one of the company’s mines.
The SMA ordered six “urgent and transitory” measures while it continues to investigate causes that generated the sinkhole that measures 36.5 meters (129 ft) in diameter in Tierra Amarilla, some 665 km (413 miles) north of Santiago.
“After several inspection visits to the area, we detected that the company was carrying out an over-extraction of material, which could have caused an increase in outcropping waters that have not been adequately controlled,” environment superintendent Emmanuel Ibarra said.
Mining Minister Marcela Hernando said last week the government would seek to apply harsh sanctions to those responsible for the sinkhole, citing the overexploitation of the nearby deposit.
Measures announced Tuesday include a soil stability study, monitoring levels in the waterhole, hydro-geochemical analysis of major compounds and trace elements of groundwater, and a study evaluating the current drainage system.
The regulator also requested a study to verify whether the volumes of water extracted by Ojos del Salado mine have detrimented nearby aquifers.
The Canadian firm owns 80% of the property, while the remaining 20% is in the hands of Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corporation.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(By Fabián Andrés Cambero, Carolina Pulice and Stephen Coates)