Miners trapped underground after gold pit collapses in Turkey

Rescue efforts could be prolonged due to high levels of toxic cyanide in the area

Rescue workers race to find at least nine in Turkish goldmine accident

Rescue workers race to find at least nine in Turkish goldmine accident
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Nine gold mine workers are trapped underground after a cyanide-laced field in Turkey collapsed over their open pit on Tuesday, prompting a search involving hundreds of rescuers.

The landslide at the mine in the remote Ilic district of the eastern Erzincan province, swept across a valley and crashed into a road where some of the workers were travelling by vehicle.

There was no news from nine out of 667 mine employees after the landslide, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said.

"We installed our [rescue] vehicles, our generators and our night-lighting equipment," Mr Yerlikaya told state-run TRT television.

"We have only one wish: to be able to give good news to the families of these brothers."

Experts and local officials said the search was complicated by the presence of cyanide – a highly toxic chemical compound used to extract gold from ore – in the ground.

"Cyanide soil collapsed" at the site, Independent Mining Labour Union representative Basaran Aksu said.

"Good specialist equipment must be used by expert teams when responding to cyanide sites," he added.

"The work may take a very long time because of the cyanide field," which is reported to be one Turkey's largest.

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The province lies on the northern bank of the Karasu river, a major tributary of the Euphrates, which runs from Turkey to Syria and Iraq.

Turkey's Environment Ministry said it had sealed off a stream that runs from the open pit to prevent contaminating the Euphrates.

Environmental activists and local officials tried to shut down the open pit mine after a cyanide leak in 2022.

The plant was shuttered for a few months but then reopened after its operator paid a fine, prompting an outcry from Turkey's opposition parties.

Anagold, a private company that runs the Ilic mine, said it was working to minimise the effects of this "painful" incident.

"We will mobilise all our means in order to urgently shed light on this incident," Anagold said in a statement.

Gold production at the site began in 2010, according to Turkish media reports.

Turkey is prone to deadly landslides and has suffered a string of mining accidents in recent decades.

A methane blast at a coal mine in the country's north-west killed 42 people in October 2022.

Updated: February 13, 2024, 8:01 PM