The Chinese authorities have confirmed that there is little chance any of the 83 workers buried during a massive mudslide at a Tibetan gold mine on 29 March will be found alive. Only 36 bodies have so far been recovered after three days of searching in inhospitable conditions, official news reports said.
The majority of the miners were migrant workers from poor villages in Gansu and Guizhou who were housed near the mine and had no means of escape when the landslide hit. The debris covered an area three kilometres wide and 30 metres deep in places.
The landslide has highlighted once again the dangers of mining in remote and geologically unstable areas such as Tibet and Yunnan. Just three months ago, at least 46 people were killed in a landslide in Yunnan, which local residents claim was caused by excessive mining in the area.
The Tibetan mine, some 70 kilometres from the capital Lhasa, was owned by a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group Corp, the country’s largest gold producer.
Also on 29 March, 28 miners were killed and 13 were injured in an explosion at a state-owned coal mine in the north-eastern province of Jilin. The gas explosion, which occurred at the Babao Mine near the city of Baishan, was followed by a second explosion at the same site three days later on 1 April. The second explosion killed at least six with 11 still missing..
According to official figures, a total of 1,384 workers died in coal mine accidents in China last year, sharply down from 1,973 in 2011. The figures do not include the millions of miners who have contracted pneumoconiosis and other deadly lung diseases whilst working in the mines.