Deadly landslide hits illegal gold mine in Indonesia

Rescue team deployed to remote region on Sulawesi island to search for the missing.

epa11466190 A handout photo made available by the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows rescuers searching for landslide victims at Tulabo village, Samawa, Gorontalo, Indonesia, 07 July 2024 (issued 08 July 2024). According to The National Disaster Management Agency, six people died and 26 were missing in landslides at Tulabolo village in Gorontalo, which were caused by heavy rainfall over several days and unstable ground conditions, EPA-EFE/BASARNAS / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
The landslide hit a remote village in the Bone Bolango district of Gorontalo province [Handout: Basarnas via EPA-EFE]

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

The landslide on Sunday in the remote Bone Bolango district in Gorontalo province killed miners and residents living near the mine, Heriyanto, head of the local rescue agency Basarnas, said on Monday.

“We have deployed 164 personnel, consisting of the national rescue team, police and military personnel, to search for the missing people,” Heriyanto said.

However, rescuers must walk about 20km (12 miles) to reach the landslide site and were being hampered by thick mud over the road and continuing rain in the area, Heriyanto added.

“We will try to use an excavator once it’s possible,” he said.

About 79 villagers were digging for grains of gold in a pit at the small traditional gold mine when tonnes of mud plunged down the surrounding hills and buried them, Heriyanto said.

He said rescuers pulled out 23 people alive, including six injured, and recovered 11 bodies, including two women and a four-year-old boy. Forty-five others are missing, he said.

National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said torrential rains that have pounded the area since Saturday also broke an embankment, causing floods of up to 3 metres (10ft) in five villages in Bone Bolango. Nearly 300 houses were affected and more than 1,000 people have fled to safety.

Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Countermeasure warned residents that rain is still expected in some areas in Gorontalo province on Monday and Tuesday and urged people to be alert.

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

Landslides, flooding and collapses of tunnels are just some of the hazards facing miners. Unlicensed mines are common across the mineral-rich Southeast Asian archipelago, where abandoned sites attract locals who hunt for leftover gold ore without proper safety equipment.

Much of gold ore processing involves toxic mercury and cyanide, and workers frequently use little or no protection.

Indonesia’s last major mining-related accident occurred in April 2022 when a landslide crashed onto an illegal traditional gold mine in North Sumatra’s Mandailing Natal district, killing 12 women who were looking for gold.

In February 2019, a makeshift wooden structure at an illegal gold mine in North Sulawesi province collapsed due to shifting soil and a large number of mining holes. More than 40 people were buried and died.

Source: News Agencies