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Chile “punishes” those responsible for the sinkhole near the copper mine


An exposed pit doubled in size last week, in a mining area near the town of Tierra Amarilla, in Copiapo, Chile, August 7, 2022. REUTERS/Johan Godoy

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Chile’s mining minister said on Monday that Chile will seek harsh penalties for those responsible for a huge pit near a copper mine in the north of the country.

The mysterious 36.5-meter-diameter crater that appeared in late July has mobilized local authorities and prompted mining regulator Sernageomin to suspend operations of a nearby mine owned by Canada’s Lundin. (LUN.TO) In the northern region of Candelaria.

“We will go ahead with the consequences, the penalties, not just the fine,” Mining Minister Marcela Hernando said in a press release, adding that fines are insignificant and the ruling should be “exemplary” for mining companies.

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The Chilean authorities did not provide details of the investigation into the causes of the sinkhole.

Local and foreign media published various aerial photos of a huge crater in a field near the Lundin mining operation, 665 kilometers north of the Chilean capital. Initially, the crater, near the town of Tierra Amarilla, was about 25 meters (82 ft) wide, with water visible at the bottom. Read more

The Canadian company owns 80% of the property, while Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining owns the remaining 20%. (5713.T) Sumitomo Corp. (8053.T).

The minister added that although the country’s mining regulator had conducted an inspection in the area in July, it was not able to detect “over-exploitation”.

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“It also makes us believe that we have to reformulate what our inspections are,” she said.

Lundin said in a statement that the excessive exploitation indicated by the minister had been reported.

“We want to stress that, to date, this hypothesis has not been identified as cited by Cernagomen as a direct cause of drilling. Hydrogeological and mining studies will provide the answers we are looking for today,” Lundin said.

“Various events that could have caused the crater are being investigated, including the abnormal rainfall that was recorded during July, which is relevant,” Lundin added.

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(Reporting by Fabian Andrés Cambero) Written by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Leslie Adler and Kenneth Maxwell

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