Portada » An avalanche at a mine in Turkey buries nine workers and threatens a cyanide spill in the Euphrates | International

An avalanche at a mine in Turkey buries nine workers and threatens a cyanide spill in the Euphrates | International

by Isabella Walker
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A large landslide at a mining operation in Erzincan province (in eastern Turkey) has buried nine workers who hundreds of rescuers are trying to locate. It is not known whether they are alive or deceased. The avalanche also risks causing a cyanide leak into the nearby Euphrates River. Authorities arrested four people in connection with the case on Wednesday.

The accident occurred on Tuesday in the Cöpler gold mine, in the open area where the leaching process takes place, i.e. the application of cyanide to separate gold from other minerals and soils. The landslide occurred in an area of ​​about 200 meters of slope and moved 10 million cubic meters of earth at a speed of 10 meters per second for almost a kilometre, according to Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, who went to the area to supervise rescue efforts. A statement from the College of Geological Engineers indicates that one of the probable causes of the landslide could be the recent rains, together with the “saturation” of the soil with the liquid products used during leaching.

At the time of the avalanche, five workers were inside a container, one in the cab of a truck and the other three in another vehicle, which leaves some hope of finding them alive, even if 24 hours after the accident there is no evidence they still have information. he managed to contact them. His exact location is triangulated through the use of radar, in an operation that mobilized 300 rescuers and a thousand personnel from various organizations, including scientists and experts. “The searches will continue unabated, day and night,” promised the minister.

Opposition media reported that the landslide damaged cyanide and sulfuric acid deposits used in gold mining, although authorities denied this. The government delegate in Erzincan province, Hamza Aydogdu, said “there has been no discharge at the moment” and no toxic discharges are expected into the Euphrates River, near which the mine is located. However, experts from the Ministry of the Environment began taking samples to investigate possible leaks and the ministry said in a statement that the mine’s discharge gates were closed to prevent spills.

Canadian-American company

The Ministry of Justice appointed four prosecutors to investigate the incident and announced the arrest of four people allegedly linked to the company. Anagold is the company that has managed the mine since 2010 and is owned by the Canadian-American company SSR Mining (80%) and the Turkish conglomerate Calik (20%), very close to the executive of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Several experts have complained that the mine does not meet the necessary safety standards. In June 2022, a spill of 20 cubic meters of cyanide occurred on vacant land when a mining pipeline exploded. The farm was then closed for 88 days, while the investigation continued, which ended with a fine of 16.5 million lire (at the time just under one million euros). In the same year, however, according to the newspaper, the Government forgave a tax debt of 209 million lire (around 10 million euros). Evrensel.

Last November, the Union of Colleges of Engineers and Architects of Turkey (TMMOB) filed a complaint against the Anagold mine, warning of “risks of landslides and avalanches” due to the company’s bad practices and because it is located on an active fault. in an area of ​​great seismic activity. “We said disaster was approaching and finally it happened,” the organization lamented in a statement. Opposition parties have complained that, despite warnings from experts, authorities have allowed the mine’s operations to expand.

The parliamentary spokesperson of the centre-left CHP party, Gökhan Günaydin, denounced that while in the European Union and other countries some cyanide processes in gold mining have been banned, in Turkey they continue to be carried out despite the serious environmental and healthcare.

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