Mondaca Volcano lahar of December 3, 1762, Maule Region (35°28’S): one of the largest volcanic disasters in Chilean history

José Antonio Naranjo, Francisco Hevia, Edmundo Polanco


The Mondaca Volcano comprises a thick rhyolitic lava-field and a dome of similar composition, located near the Lontué River Valley headwaters in the northern part of the Southern Andes Volcanic Zone. It reaches a total volume of ~0.85 km3, and it is formed by 4 subunits, named Mondaca 1, 2, 3 and 4, which correspond to successive rhyolitic blocky lava flows, emitted from a rounded dome structure. They present well-preserved flow structures and, in the surroundings, restricted to the south and east of the dome, pyroclastic fall, as well as block and ash deposits are also exhibited. Downstream, along the Lontué River, a laharic deposit is recognized. The lahar was produced after the collapse of an ephemeral ~0.44 km3 lake generated after the river obstruction by viscous lavas, during the 1762 first eruptive phase. Proximal lahar facies are well exposed between 5 and 30 km from their source. The profuse agricultural activity has completely obliterated the lahar’s medium facies deposits along the Central Depression, but are well identified at the mouth of the Mataquito River, 180 km downstream, as a beige-coloured layer, interbedded within dark coastal beach-sands. The identification of overflows and super-elevation deposits formed during the debris flow emplacement along the Lontué River valley, allows to determine a high flow mobility, with estimated velocities that locally reached up to 114 km/h. Petrographic characteristics in addition to chemical composition of lavas from the volcano, pyroclasts and juvenile blocks of the laharic deposit, indicate that all they correspond to high K calcoalkaline rhyolites with subalkaline affinity. These backgrounds, together with the geographical continuity between the lavas and debris deposits along the Lontué and Mataquito rivers, verify facies correlation and common origin as the result of the 1762 Mondaca Volcano eruption complex evolution. Although it was a mainly effusive eruption that could not be observed from Curicó, the collateral consequences would have been catastrophic over a vast area to the south of that city, and evidences one of the largest volcanic disasters in Chilean history. Probably because of the low density polulation at that time, the consequences could have been minor.


Mondaca Volcano; Lahar; Volcanic disaster; Southern Andean Volcanic Zone

How to cite this article Naranjo, J.; Hevia, F.; Polanco, E. 2021, Mondaca Volcano lahar of December 3, 1762, Maule Region (35°28’S): one of the largest volcanic disasters in Chilean history. Andean Geology 48 (3) : 514-528. [doi:]