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Turkish Gold Mine Disaster

Rescue workers battle to find workers trapped under earth after a landslide at a gold mine in eastern Turkey

by Victor Adetimilehin

A massive landslide at a gold mine in eastern Turkey has left nine workers buried under earth and rocks. Rescue efforts are underway, but the chances of survival are slim. The incident has sparked an investigation and raised questions about the safety and environmental impact of the mining industry.

What happened?

The landslide occurred on Tuesday afternoon in the Ilic district of Erzincan province, where the mine is operated by Anagold Madencilik, a joint venture between Turkey-based Calik Holding and Denver, Colorado-based SSR Mining. The mine is SSR’s second-largest producing gold mine, operating since 2010.

Security footage showed a giant mound of soil, which authorities said had been processed for gold and piled on the hills, rapidly crumble and flow into the valley in a deluge of earth and rocks, sending clouds of dust into the air.

Of the nine missing, five people were believed to be in a container hut, three in a vehicle and one in a truck, according to Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya. He said some 1,700 personnel were involved in the emergency operation, including 339 search and rescue workers.

Who is responsible?

The mine’s field manager was among the four people detained as part of an investigation into the cause of the landslide, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported. The probe will also examine whether the mining company had followed the regulations and obtained the necessary permits for its operations.

The operating company Anagold said in a statement that it was cooperating with the authorities and that it had taken all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of its workers and the environment. It also said that samples had been taken from streams and rivers in the area and no pollution had been detected, with no cyanide flow into the river and no danger regarding its waste storage pool.

However, some environmental activists and local residents have expressed their concerns over the impact of the mining activities on the ecosystem and the health of the people living nearby. They have also criticized the government for allowing the mining company to expand its operations without proper oversight and consultation.

What is the outlook for gold?

The gold price hit a record high of $2,135.39/oz in December 2023, driven by a weak U.S. dollar and expectations of interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve. Gold is widely seen as a safe-haven asset that can hedge against inflation and geopolitical uncertainty.

However, the gold price has dipped in the near term as the U.S. economy showed signs of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the Fed signaled a more hawkish stance on monetary policy. Analysts expect the gold price to remain volatile in 2024, depending on the pace and extent of the Fed’s tapering and tightening, as well as the developments in the global political and health situation.

Despite the short-term fluctuations, some experts remain bullish on the medium-term outlook for gold, citing strong demand from central banks and investors, as well as limited supply growth. According to J.P. Morgan, the gold price could climb to $2,300/oz by 2025, supported by lower U.S. real yields and higher inflation expectations.

Hope for the trapped workers

As the rescue efforts continue, the families and friends of the trapped workers are holding on to hope that they will be found alive. The Turkish government has pledged to provide all the necessary support and assistance to the victims and their relatives. The mining company has also expressed its condolences and solidarity with the affected families.

The tragedy has also sparked a wave of solidarity and compassion from the international community, with several countries and organizations offering their help and prayers. The United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, and many others have sent their messages of sympathy and support to Turkey.

The incident has also raised awareness and concern about the risks and challenges faced by the mining industry and its workers, as well as the need for more stringent regulations and standards to ensure the safety and sustainability of the sector.

Source: Reuters 


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