Tag: Ilic

ilic-cyanide-erzincan-turkiye-accident
Executive Committee

Negligence at the mine in Turkiye: 9 killed and incalculable environmental damage

 

On the afternoon of February 13, 2024, a devastating landslide occurred in the gold mining area of Ilic district, Erzincan.. Turkiye. Approximately 10 million cubic meters of soil, treated with cyanide and sulfuric acid for gold extraction, catastrophically slid towards the Euphrates River [1]. This river is not just a crucial waterway for the Middle East, supporting agriculture, and livestock, and providing drinking water to Syria and Iraq, but also flows into the Persian Gulf [2].

The landslide’s direction toward the Euphrates River raised immediate alarms about environmental and public health impacts. Mehmet Torun, the former president of the Chamber of Mining Engineers, conveyed his concerns to journalists, expressing doubts about the absence of any leakage into the river and hinting at the potential for a “terrible environmental disaster.” Despite these fears, Mehmet Ozhaseki, the Minister of Environment, Urbanization, and Climate, claimed that daily water samples showed no evidence of toxic waste contamination [1].

Cyanide has been used in the mining industry for over a century. Despite, it has been used for a long time cyanide is toxic for not only humans but also many other organisms. Especially, fish and aquatic invertebrates are particularly sensitive to cyanide exposure. A small leakage in the water or the soil can cause catastrophic effects on the ecosystem. The immediate result of a possible leakage in the Euphrates River can be measured by the accident in Romania, in 2000. Unleashed 100,000 cubic meters of toxic waste into rivers, severely impacting Hungary and Serbia. This disaster, caused by extreme weather, led to a widespread loss of drinking water for 2.5 million people and the death of vast numbers of fish.

Long-term consequences for the leakage can only be estimated at this moment. Still, persistent environmental degradation, reduced biodiversity, and compromised water and soil quality, affecting ecosystems and human health for years are some general estimations [3].

Meanwhile, the human toll of the disaster became painfully apparent. Nine mine workers were reported trapped beneath the avalanche of soil and debris. An extensive search and rescue operation involving 800 personnel was quickly launched [4]. However, the threat of further landslides temporarily halted these efforts, with a team of 10 scientists dedicated to stabilizing the land to ensure the safety of the rescue teams [1].

In another interview, Mehmet Torun explained that a gold mine located on an active fault line in Erzincan and 300 meters away from the Euphrates River is very dangerous. He added that two years ago, after it was determined that a pipe carrying cyanide-containing solution burst in the mining complex, causing the solution to spread to the environment, the company was fined 16 million 441 thousand Turkish Lira however, following the penalty, the company immediately increased its capacity twofold [1,6].

The families of the trapped workers, along with the Independent Mineworkers’ Union, demanded justice and accountability. The Union labelled the accidents, including this one, as ‘murders,’ noting that 144 workers lost their lives in similar incidents in February alone [5].

On March 5, a significant development emerged as two engineers from the mining company were arrested, bringing the total to eight individuals detained in connection with the disaster. Yet, there remained no news of the trapped workers [5].

This tragedy highlights the urgent need for stringent safety regulations and environmental protections in mining operations. The potential contamination of the Euphrates River not only poses an immediate threat to public health but also signals broader environmental risks associated with mining. It underscores the importance of sustainable practices and the urgent need for policy reforms to prevent future disasters.

As we reflect on the Erzincan mine disaster, we must consider its implications for mining safety, environmental protection, and the health of river ecosystems upon which millions depend. This catastrophe serves as a stark reminder of the interconnectedness of human activities and the environment, emphasizing the need for collective action and accountability.
In the wake of this disaster, it is critical to advocate for stronger regulations, improved safety standards, and greater environmental stewardship.

This moment calls for all stakeholders, from policymakers to environmental organizations, to unite to prevent such tragedies in the future. We owe it to the victims, their families, and our planet to ensure a safer, more sustainable future for mining and industrial practices worldwide.

BY ZEYNEP VEISOGLU

References:

[1] https://www.bbc.com/turkce/articles/ckveyyg5l25o

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-68292469

[3] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/envi/dv/envi20130925_info-cyanide_/envi20130925_info-cyanide_en.pdf

[4] https://www.euronews.com/video/2024/02/14/nine-workers-at-a-gold-mine-missing-in-turkey-after-a-landslide

[5] https://www.bbc.com/turkce/articles/c2q76y2g55po

[6] https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-61935902