Rescuers have retrieved the bodies of a dozen women buried under mud from a landslide that crashed on to an illegal gold mining operation on Indonesia’s Sumatra island.
About 14 women were looking for gold grains in a pit roughly two metres deep at a small and unauthorised traditional gold mine in a remote village of North Sumatra’s Mandailing Natal district on Thursday, when the landslide plunged down surrounding hills, local police chief Marlon Rajagukguk said.
A two-hour search and rescue operation managed to rescue two injured women and pulled the bodies of 12 others from the rubble.
Mr Rajagukguk said authorities have closed illegal gold pits in the area, which was a main source of gold to be panned traditionally by villagers before the landslide.
Informal mining operations are commonplace in Indonesia, providing a tenuous livelihood to thousands 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 facing miners.
Most gold ore processing involves highly toxic mercury and cyanide and workers frequently use little or no protection.
The country’s last major mining-related accident occurred in February 2019, when a makeshift wooden structure in an illegal gold mine in North Sulawesi province collapsed due to shifting soil and the large number of mining holes.
More than 40 people died, buried in the mine pit.