30 March 2013

News of the Tibet gold mine landslide

Posted by Dave Petley

First, many thanks to Adrian Moon for his help in putting together this post.

Xinhua has continued to run various stories about the catastrophic landslide at a gold mine in Medrogungkar, Tibet yesterday.  The sad headline news is that no survivors have been recovered, despite the attention of a large number of rescuers.  Xinhua has also released two tranches of images of the site (here and here), most of which focus on the rescuers in heroic poses.  However, a small number give a better idea of the scale of this event, of which this is by far the best:


Assuming that the source of the landslide is the apparently fresh material on the slope on the right side of the image, this is clearly a very long run out landslide.  The fresh material in the valley is undoubtedly the landslide deposit – it appears that this was a highly energetic, rapid, flow-type event.  It would be really interesting to see an image of the source area, but even from this image it is clear that this is not a typical quarry landslide. The enormous scale of the landslide is shown in this Sky News video:

The most likely location of the landslide, although this is not confirmed, 29.681 degrees E, 91.904 degrees North.  This is the Jiama mine (which elsewhere is sometimes called the Jiama Copper Mine). If so, there is more information about the mine here.  Certainly the satellite image from Google Earth is consistent with the images from Xinhua:


A Google Earth perspective view demonstrates how a very large-scale slope failure could become channelised in this very narrow, steep valley:


In such a large landslide recovering the victims is a monumental task.