Friday 29 March 2013

83 feared dead after Tibetan landslip.

83 mineworkers are feared to have died after a major landslide hit a mining settlement in Tibet at about 6.00 am local time on Friday 29 March 2013 (roughly 10.00 pm on Thursday 28 March, GMT). The landslip occurred in Maizhokunggar County, about 68 km from the Tibetan capitol of Lhasa, when an area of slope 3 km long collapsed causing around 2 million cubic meters of mud and rock to overrun part of the  Jiama Copper Gold Polymetallic Mine, which produces gold, silver, copper and molybdenum.

Operations at the Jiama Mine before the landslip. Claude Arpi.

The site is located at 4600 m, making operations there difficult at the best of times. It is essentially a mountaintop-removal type mine, covering an area of 144 km². Whilst it is a mine, and therefore has a considerable amount of excavation equipment, but a lot of this has also been buried. Over a thousand rescue workers are said to be present at the site, including firefighters, medical teams, police and sniffer dog teams.

The Chinese mine industry has a poor environmental and safety record, though there have been attempts to reform this in the past few years. The Jiama Mine has had a checkered history, with complains about environmental degradation and poor safety from the local population. It was taken over by the Tibet Huatailong Mining Development Co., a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group Corporation, in 2009, when it was promised that improvements would be made to the mine's operation.

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