Illegal goldmine collapses in Indonesia’s Sulawesi province killing at least six people, several missing

Rescuers in Indonesia’s central Sulawesi province were searching for survivors after a landslide in an illegal gold mining area killed six people, officials said on Thursday.

Teams comprising police, military and the local disaster agency deployed heavy machinery to help the search in the village of Buranga after the landslide on Wednesday evening.

At least 15 survivors had been found as of Thursday.

Disaster officials said intense rainfall and unstable soil structure at the illegal mining site may have contributed to the landslide.

Illegal mining operations are common in Asia, providing a tenuous livelihood to those who labour in conditions with a high risk of serious injury or death.

Landslides, flooding and collapses of tunnels are just some of the hazards in such mining. Much of the processing of gold ore involves the use of highly toxic mercury and cyanide by workers using little or no protection.

Indonesia accounts for about 3 percent of world gold production. Most of that comes from the Grasberg mine in Papua province, said to have USD $40 billion in reserves and up to 20,000 workers.