(Adds statements from the Minister of Mining)
SANTIAGO, Aug 18 (Reuters) – New cracks were detected in the ground near a sinkhole around a Canadian Lundin copper mine in Chile, but the company said on Thursday they were unrelated to the mysterious hole and mining activity or nearby population centers.
The strange phenomenon registered in the northern region of Atacama has drawn attention to the desert sector while the authorities investigate its possible causes and those responsible.
“The cracks detected in land near the Alcaparrosa mine are an independent event to the sinkhole and in the place where they are located, we emphasize, there are no underground mining operations or nearby population centers,” said in a statement the mining company Ojos del Salado, unit of Lundin.
“The origin of its formation is currently being studied,” he added.
For her part, the Minister of Mining, Marcela Hernando, told journalists that the information at the moment is that under the new cracks, distributed in a circular way, there would be no mining activity, although work is still being done to corroborate the information.
The official said that it will also be verified that there are no mining excavations under the nearby town of Tierra Amarilla, one of the concerns of the residents, who have reported cracks in the walls of some houses.
The Superintendence of the Environment (SMA) ordered “urgent and transitory” measures this week in the midst of the investigation of the origin of the 36.5-meter-diameter sinkhole in the Tierra Amarilla commune, about 665 kilometers north of the Chilean capital. .
The government has said that it will seek harsh sanctions for those responsible for the sinkhole, suggesting that mining overexploitation could be linked.
Hernando said mining regulator Sernageomin has already completed a study into the causes of the hole’s formation.
“We are fundamentally concerned about what has happened to the aquifer when it is broken by this mining activity and that water that is somehow draining into the interior of the mine, I would say that this is the most acute problem that worries us,” the minister pointed out.
Lundin owns 80% of the property, while the remaining 20% is held by Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corporation.
(Report by Fabián Andrés Cambero, edited by Natalia Ramos)