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Massive Mystery Sinkhole Gapes Open in Chilean Desert

That's deeper than the Space Needle in Seattle is tall.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
A round black hole stands out against a sparse, flat desert.
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A round black hole stands out against a sparse, flat desert.

The huge sinkhole in the Chilean desert is under investigation.

Sernageomin

It looks like a cartoon version of a sinkhole. A massive pit has opened up in the ground in Chile's Atacama desert region. First detected July 30, the hole, estimated to be 82 feet (25 meters) in diameter and 650 feet (200 meters) deep, is under investigation as to what caused it.

The hole appeared on land where Canadian company Lundin Mining operates a copper mine. "Upon detection, the area was immediately isolated and the relevant regulatory authorities notified. There has been no impact to personnel, equipment or infrastructure," Lundin said in a Monday statement confirming the sinkhole.

Chile's National Service of Geology and Mining (Sernageomin) shared a view of the hole on Twitter. Experts from the agency are assessing the sinkhole and have set up a security perimeter around it.   

Lundin said the sinkhole has remained stable since it was detected. The company is monitoring the nearby Alcaparrosa mine for any movement related to the event. Work in the underground mine has been temporarily suspended.

News agency Reuters shared a flyover of the hole that highlights the extent and darkness of its depths.

According to the USGS, sinkholes can have a variety of causes but are often associated with groundwater dissolving rock. This creates caverns or spaces that can collapse suddenly despite the surface appearing stable. The investigators of the sinkhole in Chile haven't yet determined how it was created.

The sinkhole is a dramatic reminder of how our sense of solid ground is sometimes an illusion.