Saturday 17 February 2024

Rescue workers in Turkey search for mineworkers trapped beneath landslide.

Hundreds of rescue workers have been deployed to a mine in eastern Turkey following a landslide on Tuesday 13 February 2024. The event happened when a spoil heap from the open-pit gold mine collapsed, leading several hundred tonnes of cyanide-laced soil to flow down into the mine site. Nine workers are reported to still be trapped within the mine, five within a shipping container, one inside a truck, and three in another vehicle. Concerns have been raised that cyanide from the mine may enter the Euphrates River, which runs close to the mine in the İliç District of Erzincan Province, then though Syria and Iraq before entering the Persian Gulf. Authorities in Turkey report damming a stream which flows from the mine to the Euphrates, and carrying out ongoing monitoring of the river.

Military personnel near the site of a gold mine hit by a landslide in Erzincan, Turkey. Ugur Yildirim/Getty Images.

The incident happened at the Çöpler Mine, which is operated by Anagold Madencilik, a subsidiary of the American SSR Mining. The mine has previously faced calls for its closure over an apparently poor safety record, following a cyanide leak in 2020, when the Euphrates was affected. On that occasion the mine was fined 16.5 million Turkish lire (US$537 000), but allowed to resume operating in 2022, despite objections from a range of organisations, including the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, which includes the Chamber of Mining Engineers. Operations at the mine have been suspended pending an investigation. Four members of staff, including the pit's field manager, have been arrested as part of the investigation.

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