Deadly landslide hits illegal gold mine in Indonesia | Environmental News

Rescue teams were dispatched to remote areas of Sulawesi to search for missing people.

At least 11 people have been killed and 45 are missing after heavy rains triggered a landslide near an illegal gold mine on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, authorities said.

A landslide that occurred on Sunday in a remote area of ​​Bone Bolango district in Gorontalo province killed a miner and a resident living near the mine, Heliyanto, head of local rescue agency Basarnas, said on Monday.

“We have deployed 164 personnel from the National Rescue Team, police and the military to search for the missing,” Heriyanto said.

But rescue teams have had to walk about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to reach the site of the landslide and have been hampered by thick mud on the road and persistent rain in the area, Heriyanto added.

“We’ll try and use the excavator when it’s possible,” he said.

Heriyanto said about 79 villagers were digging for gold nuggets in a small traditional gold mining tunnel when tonnes of mud cascaded down from the surrounding hills, burying them.

Rescue teams have evacuated 23 people, including six injured, and recovered 11 bodies, including two women and a four-year-old boy. A further 45 people are said to be missing.

Abdul Muhari, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency, said torrential rains that have been lashing the region since Saturday had caused levees to burst, causing flooding of up to three meters (10 feet) in five villages in Bone Bolango. Around 300 homes were damaged and more than 1,000 people were evacuated to safety.

Indonesia’s national disaster agency said rain was expected to continue in parts of Gorontalo province on Monday and Tuesday and urged residents to remain vigilant.

Indonesia is prone to landslides during the rainy season from November to April, but July is usually a dry month and heavy rains are rare.

Landslides, floods and tunnel collapses are just some of the dangers miners face. Unlicensed mines are common in the mineral-rich Southeast Asian island, and abandoned mine sites attract locals who dig for the remaining gold ore without proper safety equipment.

Much of the processing of gold ore involves toxic mercury and cyanide, and workers often use little or no protective equipment.

Indonesia’s last major mining-related accident was in April 2022, when a landslide occurred at an illegal traditional gold mine in Mandarin Natal district, North Sumatra, killing 12 women prospecting for gold.

In February 2019, more than 40 people were buried to death at an illegal gold mine in North Sulawesi when a landslide and numerous mining pits collapsed makeshift wooden buildings.

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