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The Landslide Disaster at Çöpler Gold Mine

On February 13, at 2:28 pm, an enormous soil landslide occurred at the Çöpler Gold Mine in Erzincan, İliç. Unfortunately, 9 workers out of the 667 were trapped underground, raising concerns about the general well-being of mine workers, considering the fact that these kinds of landslides have occurred several times before this incident. The search-and-rescue efforts of the special teams were noticeable as well. This landslide also had seismic effects that were equivalent to an earthquake with a magnitude of 2.



What are the ministers saying?

The Ministry of Interior, Ali Yerlikaya, claimed that nearly 10 million cubic meter of soil slided. The Minister of Energy and Natural Sources, Alparslan Bayraktar said that the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works’ experts have taken control of the flow of clean and contaminated water quickly. He added that the tests regarding the soil and water are continuing and there has not been any negation spotted. Moreover, since the concerns regarding the environment are huge and raise everyday, the Minister of the Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change, Mehmet Özhaseki, stated that there has not been any toxic waste encountered while being one of the many people that visited the mine on 21st of February.

What happened after?

A commission was established in the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 14th of February to investigate the landslide. The commission, which includes 22 members, is planned to operate the landslide and the mine for 3 months.

Bayraktar reinforced the fact that the region is still under the risk of a landslide, leading to a huge need for trucks to clear the area and workers to help the actions taken in the İliç region.

The protests and reactions of the people close to the victims of the landslide regarding the mine’s condition before and during this time are mainly focusing on how predictable this disaster was, which states: “Our coworkers are going to the site today seeing that there are huge crevasses. They took photos and sent them to the engineers and superiors, but our coworker friends were not withdrawn from the site and this disaster happened. The site was not evacuated. The disaster came on purpose. It was a man-made disaster and it cost the workers’ lives.”.

With an investigation launched by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Türkiye director of the Denver-based parent company of Anagold and the person in charge of  the Çöpler Gold SSR Mining, Cengiz Demirci, was arrested. However, he was later on released on judicial control while receiving a ban from Türkiye. 8 more people related with SSR Mining were arrested as well, but this time only 2 of them were released while the rest of them were still arrested.

Additionally, the Minister of Environment declared that the environmental license and permit of Anagold Mining was revoked. This madepeople both angry and relieved, angry since they think that this permit should have been revoked before an accident that cost lives happen and relieved that they believe this will be a deterrent for other mining companies and make them act more carefully, take more precautions and care more about the workers wellbeing. SSR Mining lost more than 50% of their value, nearly 1.5 billion dollars, on the market due to the disaster.

What are the environmental concerns?

On behalf of this disaster, there are also huge concerns regarding the environment; this especially being the nature close to İliç, Erzincan. Experts warned the people nearby since the soil is contaminated with dangerous materials, such as cyanide used to extract gold.

Before the incident, the mine was fined 16 million Turkish Liras because of an explosion in the pipes carrying cyanide, resulting in a 20 cubic meter leak. The mine was attempted to be shut down by environmental activists and officers. However, it was reopened after 3 months with a consent that permitted SSR Mining to expand the mining area even more. Therefore, it can be said that it is not the first time Anagold took actions that would harm the environment.

It was announced that as well as the cyanide, the sulfuric acid and soil flowing in the Euphrates River poses a serious danger to the aquatic environment, its surroundings, all the trees that receive water from that river and all the animals that drink the water.

The municipality declared that they are doing tests and observations to control the situation and will take the necessary actions in order to remediate the environment.

To conclude, the disaster at the Çöpler Gold Mine had many victims and caused many families to lose their jobs and loved ones. The environmental risks, the mine workers’ lives and their welfare are becoming rising issues in the national agenda. We hope that we will not experience any disasters like this ever again.

Works Cited

“Erzincan’daki Altın Madeni: Toprak Kayması ve Göçük Altında Kalan 9 Işçi Ile İlgili Ne Biliniyor?” BBC News Türkçe, 13 Feb. 2024. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

‌Merkezi, Haber. “Erzincan- İliç’teki Maden Faciasında Üçüncü Gün: Toprak Altındaki Dokuz Işçiye Hâlâ Ulaşılamadı, Sekiz Kişi Gözaltında, Heyelan Tehlikesi Devam Ediyor.” Medyascope, 15 Feb. 2024. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

“Erzincan’da Maden Ocağı Kazası: Şirketin Müdürü Serbest Bırakıldı.” Euronews, 12 Feb. 2024. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Özkan, Gülseven. “ÖZEL HABER | İliç’teki Maden Ocağında Çalışan Işçi Anlattı: “Amirlere Devasa Yarıkların Fotoğrafları Atıldı Ama Saha Boşaltılmadı.””Medyascope, 13 Feb. 2024. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

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