Landslide at SSR’s Turkish mine triggers cyanide spill concerns

The Copler mine in Turkey

The Copler mine in Turkey

15th February 2024

By: Bloomberg


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A landslide at a gold mine in eastern Turkey triggered concerns of cyanide contamination in western Asia’s longest river.

The incident at the Copler mine dislodged ten million cubic meters of earth across a 200-meter slope, with nine missing workers still trapped under the soil, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya told reporters.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office denied allegations that cyanide-contaminated earth has polluted the Euphrates, the 2 800-km river that flows through Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

“No contamination has been detected for now,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Energy & Natural Resources Ministry didn’t respond to a question from Bloomberg on whether Copler’s operations permit would be revoked.

The mine, located about 500 kilometers east of the capital Ankara, is operated by Anagold Madencilik, which is 80% owned by Denver-based SSR Mining. SSR shares slumped as much as 61% in New York on Tuesday.


Opposition parties and industry associations accuse the government of turning a blind eye to Copler’s operations even after a cyanide waste spill at the same site in 2022. Authorities levied a fine of less than $1-million on Anagold over that incident.

“The government has preferred to side with mine owners, not with citizens,” Meral Aksener, leader of the opposition IYI Party, said in Ankara on Wednesday. “I specifically warned them in 2022 about the danger this mine poses, but they chose to turn a deaf ear.”

Gamze Tascier, deputy leader of the Republican People’s Party who went to the area as part of an opposition delegation, cited “a lack of supervision and control.” Analysis on whether cyanide has polluted underground water resources continues, she told Bloomberg by phone.

The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects said the mine should be shut down permanently. “We are facing a possible environmental disaster,” secretary-general Dersim Gul said by phone.

SSR expected to produce as much as 220,000 ounces of gold at Copler this year, about half its anticipated global output.

The company described the incident as “a large slip on the heap leach pad.” It added that operations were suspended, without providing a time-frame for resumption.

Edited by Bloomberg



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