ISTANBUL — A landslide hit a gold mine in eastern Turkey on Tuesday, apparently trapping at least nine workers underground, officials said.
The landslide at the Copler mine happened at 2:30 p.m. near the town of Ilic in Turkey’s mountainous Erzincan province. Footage seemingly shot by a worker nearby showed a massive wave of earth rushing down a gully, engulfing everything in its path.
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said nine workers had not been heard from since the landslide struck. “It is thought that they are buried under the ground,” he said, adding that 400 search and rescue personnel were at the site. Emergency agency AFAD said staff from surrounding provinces had been brought in.
Erzincan Mayor Bekir Aksun, meanwhile, told broadcaster Haberturk that between 10 and 12 workers were missing.
Anagold Mining has operated the Copler mine since 2009. Yerlikaya said 667 staff were employed at the site.
In a statement, the company 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 said.
Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said an investigation into the disaster had been launched, adding: “I wish our citizens from Erzincan recover soon and hope that our miner brothers who are trapped under the rubble will be rescued safely.”
Geologist Suleyman Pampal told Haberturk that the soil that formed the landslide had been processed for gold and may contain dangerous substances such as cyanide that are used in the process.
He also warned of an environmental threat to the nearby Euphrates river. “Mixing with the Euphrates means the end of all life. It must be prevented urgently from reaching the Euphrates,” Pampal said.