MAC: Mines and Communities

Tibet landslide buries 83 gold miners; China mine blast kills 28

Published by MAC on 2013-04-01
Source: BBC News,, AFP

Two mining-related disasters, in the space of twenty four hours, have cost the lives of over a hundred Tibetans and Chinese citizens.

Eighty three Tibetans were buried alive in a landslide at a gold mine. Twenty eight Chinese workers perished in a gas explosion at a coal mine in Jilin.

The gold company, Huatailong Mining Development, is the Chinese subsidiary of the Vancouver-based China Gold International Resources Corp. Ltd, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, whose controlling shareholder is state-owned China National Gold Group Corp.

For background on this tragedy, including a map of Canadian mining operations in Tibet, see the Canada Tibet Committee's "Mining in Tibet: backgrounder"

A blogger has been tracking the development of the mine, using Google Earth. See:

Body recovered after 83 Tibet miners buried in landslide

The Associated Press

30 March 2013

Rescuers digging for victims of a massive landslide at a gold mining site in mountainous Tibet found one body Saturday, a day after 83 workers were buried in the disaster, Chinese state media reported. The fate of the other victims was unknown.

The workers were buried early Friday when about two million cubic meters of mud, rock and debris swept through the mine in Gyama village in Maizhokunggar county and covered an area measuring around four square kilometres.

More than 3,000 rescuers equipped with sniffer dogs and excavators were scouring the high-altitude, mountainous area on Saturday, but search efforts were slowed after snow started to fall early in the afternoon, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua said the body was retrieved at 5:35 p.m., nearly 36 hours after the landslide slammed through the area and buried the workers, who were believed to have been sleeping in their tents. The area is about 70 kilometres east of Lhasa, the regional capital.

The miners worked for Huatailong Mining Development. The company is a subsidiary of the Vancouver-based China Gold International Resources Corp. Ltd., whose controlling shareholder is the China National Gold Group Corp., a state-owned enterprise and China's largest gold producer.

The disaster has spotlighted the extensive mining activities on the Tibetan plateau and sparked questions about whether mining activities have been excessive and destroyed the region's fragile ecosystem. Criticisms, however, only flashed through China's social media Saturday before they were scrubbed off or blocked from public view by censors.

A 'natural disaster'

Beijing says the cause of the disaster is yet to be fully investigated, although state media say the mudslide was caused by a "natural disaster," without giving specifics.

Btan Tundop, a Tibetan resident, noted the mining company's dominance in the area in a short-lived microblog: "The entire Maizhokunggar has been taken over by China National Gold Group. Local Tibetans say the county and the village might as well be called Huatailong."

Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser, who has been following the mining development in Gyama and surrounding areas since 2007, said China's powerful but resource-hungry state-owned companies had ravaged the landscape.

"Unchecked mining has polluted water, sickened animals and humans, dislocated herdsmen and now caused a massive mudslide," Woeser wrote Saturday on her blog.

The Chinese government has been encouraging development of mining and other industries in long-isolated Tibet as a way to promote its economic growth and raise living standards. The region has abundant deposits of copper, chromium, bauxite and other precious minerals and metals, and is one of fast-growing China's last frontiers.

Tibet remains among China's poorest regions despite producing a large share of its minerals. A key source of anti-Chinese anger is complaints by local residents that they get little of the wealth extracted by government companies, most of which flows to distant Beijing.

Wangchuktseten, a Tibetan scholar at Northwest University of Nationalities in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, said he was most worried about the environment.

"The Tibetan plateau is considered the lungs of Asia," he said. "Those short-sighted mining activities chase after quick benefits but ignore the environment for future generations."

State media said that two of the buried workers are Tibetans, and that two are women.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was on an official trip to Congo, and Premier Li Keqiang ordered authorities to "spare no efforts" in their rescue work, state media have reported.

China mine blast kills 28: state media


30 March 2013

A gas blast in a northeast China coal mine killed 28 people, authorities said, the latest incident to damage the industry's notoriously poor safety record.

Thirteen others were rescued after the accident Friday at Babao Coal Mine in the city of Baishan, Jilin province, the official Xinhua news agency cited a spokesman with the provincial work safety and supervision bureau as saying.

The injuries of the 13 were not life threatening, the spokesman said.

Rescue work has finished at the mine and the cause of the accident is under investigation, said the spokesman. The mine is a state-owned colliery under the Tonghua Mining (Group) Co., Ltd, the Xinhua report said.

The accident occurred on the same day that a huge landslide came crashing down a mountainside in Tibet, burying 83 workers in a gold mining area.

China is the world's biggest consumer of coal, relying on the fossil fuel for 70 percent of its growing energy needs.

But its mines are among the deadliest in the world because of lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency. Accidents are common because safety is often neglected by bosses seeking quick profits.

An accident at a coal mine in southwest China killed 21 miners earlier this month, state media said. Xinhua said 58 had managed to get to the surface safely after the coal and gas outburst at the Machang coal mine in Guizhou Province.

An explosion at the Shangchang Coal Mine in the southwest Yunnan province left 17 people dead last December, while a month earlier, 23 people were killed in a gas explosion in a coal mine in Guizhou province, which borders Yunnan.

Last August, seven people died in a coal mine accident in the city of Jilin, which is located in China's northern industrial rustbelt.

The state administration of work safety said last year it would close more than 600 small coal mines, which are considered more dangerous than the larger mines.

Efforts to improve safety in China's coal mines have seen the numbers of accidents decrease in recent years.

Official figures show 1,384 died in coal mine accidents in China in 2012, sharply down from 1,973 people in 2011.

But labour rights groups say the actual death toll is likely to be much higher, partly due to under-reporting of accidents as mine bosses seek to limit their economic losses and avoid punishment.

Zhang Dejiang, a leading Chinese politician who currently sits on the elite seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, previously said coal mine accidents "ring the alarm, warning us that accident prevention is a complex, difficult, and urgent task".

Tibet mine landslide: Hopes fade for survivors

BBC News

30 March 2013

Hopes are fading for more than 80 miners buried in a landslide on Friday in Tibet.

Chinese media said the first body had been found - but only 36 hours after the landslip - and that the chances of finding survivors were slim.

The miners' camp, 70km (45 miles) east of Lhasa, was destroyed by thousands of tonnes of rock.

Rescuers have been hampered by freezing weather, altitude sickness and risks of further landslides.

Xinhua news agency said that as of 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT) no survivors had been found and later reported that the first body had been discovered at 17:35 local time.

"The miners' survival chances were slim due to the scale of the landslide," it quoted one rescue worker as saying.

The landslide took place at 06:00 local time on Friday at the mine, which lies at an altitude of 4,600m (15,000ft), burying 83 workers.

Some 2,000 police, firefighters and doctors have been sent to the disaster site, setting up temporary accommodation at a safe distance. About 200 bulldozers have been deployed to shift rock.

Xinhua said cracks on nearby mountains suggested there could be further land slips.

"Temperatures as low as -3C have affected the sniffer dogs' sense of smell," it added.

More than 300,000 cu m of debris had been removed by midday on Saturday.

Huge resources

The mine in Maizhokunggar county, which produces copper, as well as some silver and gold, is operated by a subsidiary of state-owned China National Gold Group, China's biggest gold producer.

President Xi Jinping is said to have ordered authorities to "spare no efforts" in the rescue operation.

Most of the workers were ethnic Han Chinese from Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, with two reported to be ethnic Tibetans.

Police said the area that collapsed was up to 4 sq km (1.5 sq miles).

Chinese officials believe the Tibetan plateau has huge resources, including millions of tonnes of copper, lead, zinc and iron ore.

Critics claim that Beijing's interests are driven by a desire to exploit the region's rich mineral wealth.

The government argues its investment brings modernisation and better living standards for local Tibetans.

The landslip came on the same day as a gas explosion at a coal mine in north-eastern Jilin province.

Some 28 people were killed at the Babao mine in the city of Baishan.

Another 13 miners were rescued after the explosion.

Tibet landslide traps 83 gold miners

29 March 2013

On Friday, a massive landslide crashing down a mountainside in a gold-mining area of Tibet buried 83 workers Chinese state-run Xinhua media reports.

A three-kilometre-long section of land containing an estimated two million cubic metres of earth and rock slid down a slope and engulfed a workers' camp 70 kilometers east of the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

More than 1,000 police, firefighters, soldiers and medics accompanied by sniffer dogs and rescue equipment have been deployed and around 30 excavators were also digging away at the site in sub-zero temperatures, according to Xinhua.

The Huffington Post reports the disaster is "likely to inflame critics of Chinese rule in Tibet who say Beijing's interests are driven by the region's mineral wealth and strategic position and come at the expense of the region's delicate ecosystem and Tibetans' Buddhist culture and traditional way of life":

The reports said at least two of the buried workers were Tibetan while most of the workers were believed to be ethnic Han Chinese, a reflection of how such large projects often create an influx of the majority ethnic group into the region.

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