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Bodies of last 5 miners retrieved 4 months after landslide in eastern Turkey

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The bodies of five miners who were among nine buried in a landslide at a gold mine in Turkey’s eastern Erzincan province in February have finally been retrieved nearly four months after the disaster, the provincial governor’s office announced on Monday.

The bodies of Fahrettin Keklik, Şaban Yılmaz, Hüseyin Kara, Abdurrahman Şahin and Mehmet Kazar were to be laid to rest in their hometowns on Monday, according to a statement from the Erzincan Governor’s Office on X.

Some 10 million cubic meters of soil contaminated with cyanide and sulfuric acid tumbled down the heap leach pad of the Çöpler gold mine in the İliç district of Erzincan on February 13, leaving nine miners trapped.

The rescue efforts following the disaster were hindered by the threat of further landslides.

The bodies of the four other miners were retrieved in April, May and early June.

This disaster has shone a spotlight on the oversight and management of mining activities in the region and highlighted a series of ignored warnings and inspections.

According to Turkish media reports based on official documents, Anagold, the company operating the mine, was given the green light by the Ministry of Environment on August 16, 2023, despite explicit warnings from the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) provincial directorate in Erzincan about the risk of landslides.

An international auditing firm reportedly recommended the purchase of additional radar and robotic stations to monitor the stability of the mine. However, these recommendations were not followed, and the mine’s radar system was unable to detect the landslide when it occurred.

The mine had previously been declared safe from landslides in environmental impact assessments conducted during former environment, urbanization and climate change minister Murat Kurum’s tenure.

Eight people including mining company executives have thus far been arrested as part of the investigation into the tragedy.

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