By Leslie Kean
The government office investigating UFOs in Chile has released an analysis of two high quality photos showing what appear be genuine unidentified flying objects above a remote copper mine. The office, known as the CEFAA (Committee for the Studies of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena), is located within the Ministerial Department of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC), the equivalent of our FAA, under the jurisdiction of the Chilean Air Force. It is responsible for the analysis of selected reports of unexplained aerial phenomena in Chilean airspace, most of them from pilots and aviation personnel.
The photos were taken at the Collahuasi copper mine, more than 14,000 feet above sea level in the Andean plateau in the far north of Chile. An extremely remote location with low oxygen levels and unusually clear skies, the area is desolate and inhospitable. The Collahuasi mine produces copper concentrate, copper cathodes and molybdenum concentrate from three open-pit mineral deposits. (Click here for a map).
Four technicians - professionals specializing in electricity, electronics, and fluid control - were working there in April, 2013. They witnessed a disc-shaped object which approached slowly and was present for more than an hour, moving around in different positions and hovering at about 2000 feet. One technician took pictures with his Kenox Samsung S860 camera. The strange object made no sound, and eventually moved away towards the East.
The witnesses decided not to tell anybody because of the negative associations they had with UFO sightings, and therefore had every intention of always keeping the sighting private. But some months later, the photographer casually showed the pictures to the chief engineer at the mine, who asked for copies. The engineer sent the images to the CEFAA in February, and provided the agency with information reported to him by the witnesses. He too has requested anonymity.
Chile's meteorological office at the DGAC confirmed that there was an absolute clear sky at that time, and that there was no possibility of lenticular clouds. All other meteorological phenomena have been ruled out by Chilean officials as a possible explanation.
CEFAA officials told me they determined that there were no drones operating near the mine. "People in that zone know about drones," said Jose Lay, international affairs director for the CEFAA. "Fishing companies use drones and they make a lot of noise. This was definitely not a drone." DGAC officials also ruled out any experimental aircraft, planes, weather balloons, or anything else that could explain the incident.
With all conventional explanations eliminated, the CEFAA staff determined that the photos were worthy of analysis. The results of this study, conducted by a leading CEFAA analyst at the DGAC Meteorological Office, was released on July 3rd and is posted on the CEFAA website.
The report states that the witnesses described the phenomenon as "a flattened disc, of brilliant color, with a diameter of 5 to 10 meters [16 to 32 feet]. It performed ascending, descending and horizontal movements in short lengths, about 600 meters above the ground." The witnesses had the impression that the object was under intelligent control.
The first image, enlarged and filtered, shows a solid object reflecting the sunlight, the report states. It adds that the object could be emitting it's own energy as well, due to the high temperature shown in the image (the black area).
The second photo shows the object in a different position in the sky. (The CEFAA does not know the time sequence between the two images.)
The study concludes that "It is an object or phenomenon of great interest, and it can be qualified as a UFO."
Despite the strength of this analysis, the CEFAA staff recognize the limitations of the Collahuasi case. "The witnesses were not willing to cooperate," Jose Lay told me. "We tried to contact them, and we got no reply. So we treated the material just as we have treated several others of the same or similar nature: we file them for future reference or comparison purposes. That's all we can do in this case."
Retired General Ricardo Bermudez, director of the CEFAA, says "We recognize that this is the determination of only one CEFFA analyst among several. So we still must be cautious." He has called a meeting of the CEFFA scientific committee, composed of high level specialists from laboratories and universities, for next week. Although they are not expert visual photo-video analysts, the opinion of this distinguished group, which supports the work of the CEFAA and assists with investigations when needed, could shed further light on the case.
The South American media has shown great interest in these images. In the US, retired Navy physicist Bruce Maccabee, a well known photo analyst, has this to say: "In the second image there appears to be a very bright hemispherical shape, convex downward... possibly a UFO enveloped in a cloud of vapor." He notes that additional data is needed to determine more, but that it is clear that the object moved "a considerable distance" between the two photos.
"This is clearly not a normal thing seen in the sky (bird, plane, cloud, etc.)," added Dr. Maccabee in an email. "That makes it either the real thing - UFO - or a hoax, and it doesn't appear to be a hoax, although the inability to question witnesses does reduce the credibility. Certainly this case is worthy of further study."
It is indeed unfortunate that the four witnesses have not been willing to speak to the authorities, who could guarantee them anonymity. But even so, these images are important because they were studied by a government agency with access to the pertinent information needed for a proper analysis. That in itself is unusual. I commend the CEFAA for taking on cases such as this. The experts there conducted a serious investigation, and then released the information to the public, with no reservations about acknowledging the possible existence of a UFO, since that is warranted.