21 October 2019

Shchetinkino: a major dam collapse at a gold mine in Siberia

Posted by Dave Petley

Shchetinkino: a major dam collapse at a gold mine in Siberia

On Saturday 19 October 2019 a dam collapsed at a gold mine near to Shchetinkino in Siberia.  To date 15 fatalities have been reported, whilst five people remain missing.  This is of course just the latest in a long series of mine related dam failures, a topic upon which I have written regularly.

Reports suggest that the dam was impounding water rather than tailings on this occasion.  The structure was reported to have been illegal, with a height of about 5 metres.  Some reports suggest that three people have been arrested over the incident.

A report on Yahoo News suggests that the event occurred as a cascade of five dam failures.  The released water struck workers accommodation below the lowest dam, killing employees from the mine.  This image shows the aftermath:-

Shchetinkino dam collapse

The aftermath of the dam collapse at Shchetinkino in Siberia on 19 October 2019. Image via Yahoo News and AFP.


I have taken a quick look at the Planet Labs imagery of the area.  Bad weather means that no images are yet available of the aftermath of the event, but this image shows a large area of mining upstream from Shchetinkino, collected on 15 October 2019.  Note the multiple, haphazard water storage area, and the various piles of mine waste, through the valley.

Shchetinkin mine disaster

The site of the Shchetinkino dam collapse. Planet Labs PlanetScope image, collected 15 October 2019. Image copyright Planet Labs, used with permission.


Hopefully the weather will clear in the next few days, meaning that post-collapse imagery will become available.  The local authorities have indicated that they were not aware of the construction of the dams, but as the images above show, they are easy to detect.

At present the amount of downstream damage is not clear.


Planet Team (2019). Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA. https://www.planet.com/