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Russian rescuers scramble to save 13 trapped under gold mine

Russia has said 13 workers have been trapped under a gold mine in its Far East for two days
Russia has said 13 workers have been trapped under a gold mine in its Far East for two days - Copyright AFP JUAN MABROMATA
Russia has said 13 workers have been trapped under a gold mine in its Far East for two days - Copyright AFP JUAN MABROMATA

Russian rescuers were scrambling to save 13 workers trapped inside a giant gold mine near the Chinese border for a second day on Wednesday, as officials warned of a “difficult situation”. 

Russia has said the miners have been stuck since Monday after a rockslide covered them in rubble at the Pioneer mine in the Far Eastern Amur region. 

The mine is one of the largest in the world and one of the most productive in Russia. 

“The situation remains difficult,” regional governor Vasily Orlov said on social media after visiting the scene. 

He has introduced a regional state of emergency and said that there has still been no contact with the trapped miners.

Authorities have said they are some 125 meters (more than 400 feet) underground.  

Orlov said rescuers from neighbouring regions were also involved in the operation.

Anatoly Suprunovsky, deputy head of Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry said a fresh team of experienced rescuers from Siberia’s Kuzbas mining region had arrived to help Wednesday, bringing more specialised equipment. 

The ministry posted a video of workers trudging through a light layer of snow in the giant remote mine — wearing white helmets with headlamps. They joined a team of more than 100 other rescuers already working at the site.

Officials have already opened an investigation for a suspected breach of safety rules. Lax safety measures have often led to deadly accidents in Russian mines and factories.

The Kremlin said Tuesday President Vladimir Putin “gave the order to take all necessary measures to save the miners”.

– Miners believed alive – 

Authorities have posted aerial photographs showing the extent of the rescue mission in the giant remote mine surrounded by deserted steppes. 

Orlov said earlier on Wednesday that rescuers had began drilling a hole to try to reach the miners.

“Even if the passage does not lead to people it will be possible to lower a camera into it to assess the situation and lay communication lines,” he said. 

There was still “no communication with the miners”, he added. But officials believe they are alive and Orlov said the trapped group are workers from other regions.

State-owned Izvestia newspaper quoted a relative of one of the miners who said she was from Sibay — a small town in the Urals region of Bashkortostan region. 

“From our town, from Sibay, there are four people there,” the woman, named as Rimma Akhmadeyeeva told the paper. 

“The town is small, everyone knows each other. My phone is exploding and on social media (people are) writing, supporting (us),” she added. 

“We still hope for a good end, that they are alive. Because they are banging on a pipe and they are given extra ventilation.” 

On Tuesday, Russia’s Emergencies Minister Alexander Kurenkov said: “People who are under the rubble know that people are coming to help them.”

The rescuers were trying to work at “maximum speed” to get through “100-200 metres” every two hours.

Accidents at mines are relatively common in Russia. In 2021, an accident at a coal mine in Siberia claimed the lives of 40 miners.

Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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