1 August 2012

28 killed in another mining landslide in China

Posted by Dave Petley

The list of mining-related landslides in China unfortunately became longer yesterday, with yet another fatal landslide at an iron ore mine.  This time the failure occurred in Araltobe, Xinyuan County in Kazak Autonomous Prefecture of Ili, which is in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.  The landslide occurred at lunchtime local time yesterday, burying a building occupied by 28 people.  To date 18 bodies have been recovered, but there seems to be little hope of a positive outcome for the rest.

This is a large landslide – estimated to be a million cubic metres in volume, 2,000 m in length, 50 m wide and with a depth of 6 m.  There is a high quality image gallery of the site here, but none of the pictures provide an overview of the landslide.  The one that best indicates what happened is this one, but even that is less than clear:

According to the Geonames search engine, Araltobe is at 43.4 N, 83.7 E.  The only obvious quarry that I can find in the Google Earth imagery of this area is this one:

But the imagery is nine years old and there are a couple of other sites in the area that look like they were about to be developed as a quarry.

The incidence large-scale mine-related landslides in China is remarkably high.  Here is another example from just a year ago, and one from 2009.  There have been many others.

Meanwhile, out in there Pacific there are now two intense typhoons, both on tracks that will make landfall in China over the next few days.  The Japan Meteorological Agency has this amazing radar image that captures them both:

The one to the south, just east of Taiwan, is the source of real concern at the moment.  This typhoon, called Saola, is moving very slowly.  Whilst this is good for wind damage, it is exactly the scenario that leads to very high rainfall totals, which in turn leads to landslides and floods.  It is currently forecast to cross the northern side of Taiwan in two days time, and then to landfall in China a day later.  This has brought over 300 mm of rainfall to parts of Taiwan already today, on top of similar amounts yesterday:

Expect similar, or possibly higher, totals over the next couple of days.  Landslides and floods seem inevitable.