Russian rescuers race to save 13 trapped in collapsed gold mine

Officials believe miners are still alive as specialists drill down through hundreds of metres of rock to establish contact.

Russia Emergency Situations employees walk to the collapsed gold mine in Zeysk district, Amur region, eastern Russia
Rescuers walk to the collapsed gold mine in Russia's Amur region on March 19, 2024 [Handout/Russia Emergency Situations Ministry press service via AP]

Teams are scrambling to save at least 13 workers trapped underground after a gold mine collapsed in eastern Russia.

Officials reported “difficult” conditions on Wednesday, as rescuers continued battling rubble and water in a bid to save the miners, who are believed trapped 390 feet (120 metres) underground. They’ve been there since Monday, when the Pioneer mine in the far-eastern Amur region, was hit by a rockslide.

“The situation remains difficult,” Amur Governor Vasily Orlov said on Telegram. While reporting that there has still been no communication with the trapped miners, he said it is believed that they are still alive.

Rescuers are attempting to drill through several hundred metres of rock in an attempt to establish contact with the men and assess their condition.

“Even if the passage does not lead to people, it will be possible to lower a camera into it to assess the situation and lay communication lines,” said Orlov.

A relative of one of the trapped miners, quoted by the state-owned Izvestia newspaper, claimed the miners were “banging on a pipe”. Rimma Akhmadeyeeva said four of them hailed from her hometown of Sibay in the Urals area of Bashkortostan region.

State news agency RIA Novosti reported that the volume of rubble and rock at the remote mine, owned by sanctions-hit copper and gold producer UMMC, was nine times larger than previously estimated.

Anatoly Suprunovsky, deputy head of Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry, said a team of experienced rescuers from Siberia’s Kuzbas mining region had arrived to help, bringing specialised equipment to the mine, which is set amid a desert steppe in Zeysk district, near the border with China.

On Tuesday, Russia‘s Emergencies Minister Alexander Kurenkov said rescuers were working at “maximum speed” to get through “100-200 metres” every two hours.

President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the situation and ordered that every effort be made to save the miners, the Kremlin said.

Officials have already opened an investigation for a suspected breach of safety rules. Lax safety measures have often led to deadly accidents in Russian mines and factories.

In 2021, an accident at a coal mine in Siberia killed 40 miners.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies