29 March 2013

First reports of a massive landslide in Tibet – 83 people reported to have been killed

Posted by Dave Petley

Xinhua is reporting that a landslide occurred at 6 am local time at a gold mine in Maizhokunggar County, which is in Chinese-controlled Tibet.  The landslide is reported to be very large – some reports say 4 square kilometres, whilst a slightly more credible report suggests that the deposit is 2 km in length and 50 metres wide, with a volume of 2 million cubic metres.  Unfortunately the landslide appears to have buried a set of workers’ huts, with 83 people reported missing.  The likelihood of them surviving such an event is extremely low.

There are images in some of the news reports (e.g. here), but it is far from clear to me that these actually depict the incident in question.  Some look far too small.  Images are likely to appear in the next 24 hours though.

This event is sufficiently large to have attracted the attention of the new Chinese Premier and President, who have urged both a rapid rescue effort and a full investigation of what went wrong.

The Chinese mining industry has a wretched track record when it come to landslides, as many posts on this blog (e.g. here, here, here and here) testify.  Mining is dangerous everywhere, but in China the levels of loss are truly terrifying.