Chile’s environmental watchdog has filed four charges against Lundin Mining’s Minera Ojos del Salado operations for a sinkhole that recently appeared near the Alcaparrosa mine in the Atacama Region.

Superintendence of the Environment (SMA) said one of the four infractions was classified as serious and is related to the over-extraction of ore at Mina Alcaparrosa.

The sinkhole is more than 60m deep and was detected on 30 July near the Minera Ojos del Salado’s Alcaparrosa mine site in Tierra Amarilla.

A security perimeter was set up around the sinkhole after it was discovered.

The second infraction was classified as ‘very serious’ and is related to the modification of the environmentally evaluated mining infrastructure that affected the Copiapó River aquifer.

It also includes undertaking mining infrastructure up to level 350 in the Gaby sector, near the water table of the Copiapó River aquifer.

SMA head Emanuel Ibarra said: “The instructor of the case and the investigation of the regional office allowed to link the sinkhole with the over-extraction of mineral.

“In addition, when the event occurred, large amounts of water began to leak into the mine from places where the company intervened beyond what was considered in the environmental assessment.”

A further two minor charges were filed for non-compliance with the conditions for ore transportation and failure to secure approval from Vialidad for overweight traffic on public roads.

In a statement, SMA said: “The last charge is to modify the reception destination of the environmentally evaluated mineral, since in the environmental permit it was planned that it would be taken in its entirety to the Candelaria Mine site, which has not been the case.”

The watchdog noted that minor infractions can incur fines of up to 1,000 annual tax units (ATU), while companies can be fined up to 5,000 UTA for serious infractions.