Birds struggle to survive in cyanide pool after mine disaster in eastern Turkey

On the 3rd day of the landslide disaster at the Çöpler gold mine in Turkey’s eastern Erzincan, birds have struggled to survive in the cyanide pool of the mine.

Evrim Deniz / Gazete Duvar

Birds that landed in the Çöpler gold mine’s cyanide basin to drink water were imaged dying on Feb. 15. On Feb. 13, a landslide disaster at the mine in Turkey’s eastern Erzincan province trapped at least nine workers, leading to cyanide leakage. 

A worker of the Anagold Mining Company, owner of the Çöpler gold mine, told Gazete Duvar that the birds were landing at the cyanide basin assuming it was water and fainted when they landed to drink. 

The worker said, “We feel very sad when birds fall. They struggle there for hours and die. We cannot go down there. We are strictly forbidden to take pictures inside.”

“If I am seen talking to you, they will fire me. Smaller birds sometimes get stunned while flying and fall. They covered them with white plastic wrap so that people from the press could not view them,” the worker added.

A heavy odor is also noticeable around the cyanide basin.

On Feb. 13, the landslide at Çöpler gold mine, operated by Anagold Mining Company, trapped at least nine workers, leading to cyanide leakage from a mountain where the company had been storing cyanide waste in Erzincan’s İliç district.

Experts and opposition had been warning about the dangers of the mine since its foundation in 2009. In June 2022, a pipe containing cyanide also burst in the mine, leading to the discharge of waste into the Euphrates River. However, the mine site was approved to be expanded by the Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change Ministry after the leakage.

(English version by Alperen Şen)