12 August 2015

Shanyang County, Shaanxi: another mining-related landslide disaster in China

Posted by Dave Petley

Shanyang County, China

In the early hours of Wednesday morning a landslide occurred at the site of the Wuzhou Mining Company in Shanyang County, Shaanxi, China.  The landslide buried three dormitories housing mine workers, burying over 60 people.  At the time of writing Xinhua reports that there are four survivors who have been recovered from the debris.

The exact location of the landslide is not clear.  Youser reports on a company called “Shaanxi Wuzhou Mining Company” as follows:-

Shaanxi Wuzhou Mining Co., Ltd. is mainly engaged in mining, processing, smelting of vanadium pentoxide, there are 5 processing and smelting production lines. Its annual production capacity is to process 800,000 t of vanadium ore; its production capacity for vanadium compounds is 5000 t/year, its production capacity for catalyst used for sulfuric acid preparation is 1000 t/year.

There are a small number if images online of the landslide, which from a geological perspective might support the idea that this is a vanadium mine.  Xinhua has this one:


The Weather Channel has a good report too, including some additional images.  Most of these are typical for the aftermath of such disasters in China – i.e. dramatic portrayals of heroic rescuers – but one does provide some additional perspective:


The images suggest that this was a large (some reports indicate a volume of 1.3 million cubic metres) rockslide.  The survival rate for anyone buried is likely to be very low.

This is of course the latest in a long succession of mining related landslide disasters in China – indeed they seem to be an annual event.  Previous examples include:

There are many more.  Mining landslides occur in many other countries, but China is unusual in that they regularly happen in legal (rather than illegal) mines AND cause large numbers of fatalities.  To me this indicates poor slope management.