Rain-triggered landslide kills 11 in illegal gold mine in Indonesia; 19 missing

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A landslide triggered by torrential rains crashed into an unauthorised gold mine on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, killing at least 11 people, officials said Monday. Nineteen others were missing.

About 35 villagers were digging up gold grains from a pit at the small traditional gold mine in the remote Bone Bolango district of Gorontalo province on Sunday when tons of mud fell from the surrounding hills and buried the gold grains, said Afifuddin Ilahude, spokesman for Gorontalo’s Search and Rescue Agency.

He said rescuers had rescued five wounded people on Sunday and recovered 11 bodies on Monday. Rescuers were still searching for 19 others who had been reported missing, he said.

“Relief efforts to the dead and missing were hampered by heavy rains and blocked roads covered in thick mud and debris,” Ilahude said, adding that rescuers were struggling to evacuate three of the recovered bodies.

National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said torrential rains that have battered the area since Saturday also caused a dike to break, causing flooding of up to 3 meters (10 feet) in five villages in Bone Bolango. Nearly 300 homes were affected and more than 1,000 people have fled for safety.

Informal mining activities are common in Indonesia, creating a precarious livelihood for thousands of people who work in conditions that pose a high risk of serious injury or death.

Landslides, floods and tunnel collapses are just some of the hazards miners face. Much of the gold ore processing involves highly toxic mercury and cyanide and workers often use little or no protection.

The country’s last major mining accident occurred in April 2022, when a landslide hit an illegal traditional gold mine in the Mandailing Natal district of North Sumatra, killing 12 women who were panning for gold.

In February 2019, a makeshift wooden structure at an illegal gold mine in North Sulawesi province collapsed due to shifting ground and a large number of mine holes, burying and killing more than 40 people.

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