Huge Sinkhole in Atacama Desert

August 2022 sinkhole near Alcaparrosa copper mine in Chile

A sinkhole approximately 32 meters in diameter and roughly 200 meters deep opened up in the Atacama Desert of Chile, near the Alcaparrosa copper mine at the beginning of August 2022. Anytime something like this appears near a mine, there is the obvious question if the mining activities have something to do with the formation. It does appear to have the classic appearance of other large sinkholes formed by normal geologic processes of limestone dissolution. I can’t be sure, but from the photos, it appears that the structure is centered on some kind of channel that reroutes water around the mine facilities. One can imagine that even with the minimal rainfall in the Atacama Desert, the occasional flow in that channel could have been concentrated on the sinkhole area, perhaps playing a role in the final collapse. I would speculate that the actual formation of the sinkhole probably predates the mining activity.

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