Rescue workers search for missing gold miners after Turkey landslide

  • World
  • Wednesday, 14 Feb 2024

A CCTV monitor shows a landslide at an Anagold Mining operation in Ilic, Turkey February 13, 2024 in this screen grab from a social media video. Mustafa Sarigul via X/via REUTERS

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Rescue workers battled to find nine workers trapped under earth after a landslide at a gold mine in eastern Turkey on Wednesday, the interior minister said, while state media said four people were detained as an investigation got underway.

The landslide occurred on Tuesday afternoon in the Ilic district of Erzincan province. State broadcaster TRT Haber said the mine's field manager was among the four people detained.

Gold miner SSR Mining on Tuesday suspended production at the mine after what it described as a "large slip on the heap leach pad". The incident sparked a plunge of more than 50% in its Toronto-listed shares.

"Our search and rescue operations will continue non-step day and night," said Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya . "Our hope is for good news and we are working for that."

Of the nine missing, five people were believed to be in a container hut, three in a vehicle and one in a truck, he said at the disaster site. Some 1,700 personnel were involved in the emergency operation, including 339 search and rescue workers.

The mine is operated by a company that is owned by Turkey-based Lidya Madencilik and Calik Holding as well as U.S.-based SSR Mining, which is listed in Toronto and New York.

Security footage showed a giant mound of soil, which authorities said had been processed for gold and piled on the hills, rapidly crumble and flow into the valley in a deluge of earth and rocks, sending clouds of dust into the air.

Yerlikaya said some 200 metres of a hillside slid in the incident. Initial findings suggest the volume of the landslide was 10 million cubic metres of earth that moved 800 metres at a speed of 10 metres per second, he said.

The earth slid to within a few kilometres of the Euphrates river and there were concerns over the soil containing cyanide, given leach mining is conducted there.

However, the operating company Anagold said samples had been taken from streams and rivers in the area and no pollution has been detected, with no cyanide flow into the river and no danger regarding its waste storage pool.

The mine produced 56,768 ounces of gold in the third-quarter of last year, and is SSR's second-largest producing gold mine, operating since 2010. The stock slide wiped out about C$1.4 billion ($1.03 billion) from the company's market value.

($1 = 1.3568 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Can Sezer, Ceyda Caglayan and Burcu Karakas; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Ros Russell)

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