Ever heard the saying “if you look straight into the abyss, the abyss looks back at you”? That’s exactly the feeling when looking at the giant hole that appeared in the Atacama region, in Chile, from the inside.
Records collected on Sunday (7) by the Chilean broadcaster TVN show that the hole, with an almost perfect circumference, has irregular stone walls and a background so far away that it is impossible to see what is down there – a true abyss.
The bottom is made up of sand and stones that continue to detach from the walls towards the ground.
The Sernageomin (Chilean National Service of Geology and Mining) said that the depth of the hole had decreased by at least 2 meters because of the stones accumulating on the surface. There’s no sign of water down there.
What is known so far
On Tuesday (9), information from the Reuters agency pointed out that the hole has already doubled in size: it is 50 meters in diameter and at least 200 meters deep. As soon as it was discovered in late July, the sinkhole was estimated to be 25 meters in diameter and 40 meters deep – the equivalent of a 20-story building.
According to the director of the Geoscientific Network of Chile, Cristóbal Muñoz, the almost cylindrical shape of the hole comes from circulating groundwater. “Attached to the terrain with high soil erosion, it ends up making almost vertical walls,” he told TVN.
On Monday (8), the Chilean mining minister, Marcela Hernando, met with authorities to seek explanations for the problem. According to her, the first analyzes inside the Chile hole were not able to identify whether there was an overexploitation of the mine – one of the main hypotheses for the opening.
“We have to reformulate what our inspection processes are,” said the minister. “And reinforce this region with more personnel, since there are so many mining deposits”.
Residents of Tierra Amarilla and nearby communes continue to protest against the exploitation of the Alcaparosa mine, where the hole is. The opening is just 600 meters away from two villages and a health centre.
Exploration has been suspended since the discovery of the sinkhole on 30 July. There is uncertainty about security conditions for local communities. Now the government has hired a company specializing in topography to study the risks in the area. The study, however, must last at least 30 days.