Nine Turkish miners missing after cyanide-laced landslide

Nine mine workers went missing on Tuesday after a landslide hit an open goldmine in the Ilic district of Erzincan province in Turkey.

Hundreds of rescue workers are engaged in a search operation currently that authorities say is complicated by the presence of cyanide in the soil.

Out of 667 employees, nine are unaccounted for, according to Turkey’s Interior Minister, Ali Yerlikaya.

The images and videos from the site, meanwhile, show the landslide moving across a valley and hitting a road where some workers were in vehicles.

The Independent Mining Labour Union has said that the need for specialist equipment and the toxic conditions could prolong the search.

“Cyanide soil collapsed” at the site, a representative of the union, Basaran Aksu said.

“The work may take a very long time because of the cyanide field,” he added.

The landslide has caused major environmental concerns, leading to actions to block a stream that flows into the Euphrates River to stop pollution.

Previous environmental concerns were raised about the mine, especially after a cyanide leak in 2022, leading to temporary closure and fines for the operator amidst public and political outcry.

Experts have warned of the risks associated with the mine, citing the large volume of soil containing cyanide and sulphuric acid used in the mining process.

Anagold, the private company operating the mine, has pledged to address the consequences of the landslide, while the justice ministry has initiated an investigation into the mine’s operations.

In a statement, Anagold said its “most important priority in this difficult process … is the health and safety of our employees and contractors”.

“This is a painful situation. Immediately after the incident, we immediately contacted our employees in the region, put our emergency plan into action and informed the relevant public institutions and organizations,” the statement added.

“We will mobilise all our means in order to urgently shed light on this incident.”

Turkey’s Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said: “I wish our citizens from Erzincan recover soon and hope that our miner brothers who are trapped under the rubble will be rescued safely.”

Often hit by landslides and mining accidents, Turkey is under fresh examination for how it handles mining safety and the environment.

“The disaster that took place in Erzincan Ilic Copler gold mine is a disaster that (was) coming,” the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects said in a statement issued on social media.

The union added that it had filed two lawsuits against the mine’s operation. “We said that Ilic Copler gold mine should be closed and rehabilitation works should be started.”

Additional reporting with agencies

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