RESCUERS digging for victims of a huge landslide at a gold-mining site in Tibet recovered one body yesterday but the fate of 82 other missing workers caught in the disaster remains unknown.
They were swept away early on Friday, when millions of tonnes of mud, rock and debris swept through the huge open-cast mine in Gyama village in Maizhokunggar county, covering an area more than a mile square.
More than 3,000 rescuers equipped with sniffer dogs and excavators were scouring the mountainous area yesterday, but search efforts were hindered when snow started to fall.
The body was retrieved at 5.35pm, nearly 36 hours after the landslide tore through the area and buried the workers, who were believed to have been sleeping in their tents. The area is about 44 miles east of Lhasa, the regional capital.
The miners worked for Huatailong Mining Development, a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group, a state-owned enterprise and China’s largest gold producer.
The disaster has highlighted the extensive mining activities on the Tibetan plateau and sparked questions about whether this has been excessive and has destroyed the region’s fragile ecosystem.
Criticisms, however, appeared only briefly across China’s social media yesterday before negative comments were erased or blocked from public view by censors.
Beijing said the cause of the disaster was yet to be fully investigated, although state media claimed the mudslide was caused by a “natural disaster,” without giving any further details.
Btan Tundop, a Tibetan resident, noted the mining company’s dominance in the area in a short-lived microblog: “The entire Maizhokunggar has been taken over by China National Gold Group. Local Tibetans say the county and the village might as well be called Huatailong.”
Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser, who has been following the mining development in Gyama and surrounding areas since 2007, said China’s powerful but resource-hungry state-owned companies had ravaged the landscape.