Rescue efforts escalate for 9 missing in Turkish mine landslide

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Security personnel stand at the entrance of the Copler gold mine near Ilic village, eastern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 14. Hundreds of rescuers on Wednesday pressed ahead with efforts to search for several workers trapped at a gold mine in eastern Turkey that was engulfed by a massive landslide. (AP)

ANKARA, Turkey, Feb 14: Hundreds of rescuers on Wednesday pressed ahead with efforts to search for at least nine workers trapped at a gold mine in eastern Turkey that was engulfed by a massive landslide.

The landslide struck the Copler mine in the town of Ilic in Turkey’s mountainous Erzincan province on Tuesday. Footage seemingly shot by a worker showed a huge mass of earth rushing down a gully, overrunning everything in its path. The landslide involved a mound of soil extracted from the mine, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said.

Some 800 search and rescue personnel, including police and military teams, mine rescuers, and volunteers, were deployed to find the mine workers, Yerlikaya said early Wednesday.

Other workers at the mine have also joined the efforts to rescue their colleagues, while families of the missing waited at an area close to the mine for news of their loved ones, Haberturk television reported.

An investigation into the disaster has been launched.

Experts, meanwhile, have warned that the landslide may carry environmental risks. Geologist Suleyman Pampal said the soil that formed the landslide had been processed for gold and may contain dangerous substances such as cyanide that is used to extract gold. He also warned of a threat to the nearby Euphrates River.

The Environment Ministry said in a statement that a stream leading to the Euphrates was closed to prevent water pollution. Erzincan Gov. Hamza Aydoglu also said there was no leakage into the waterway.

The mine was closed down in 2020 following a cyanide leak into the river, which stretches through Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. It reopened two years later after the company was fined and a cleanup operation was completed.

Turkey has a poor mine safety record. In 2022, an explosion at the Amasra coal mine on the Black Sea coast killed 41 workers. The country’s worst mining disaster took place in 2014 at a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey, where 301 people were killed.

In the wake of those incidents, engineers warned that safety risks were frequently ignored and inspections not adequately carried out.

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