Scientists determine heap leach caused landslide in Turkish mine 70 pct higher than maximum

A delegation of scientists from Trabzon Karadeniz Technical University (KTÜ) determined that the height of the heap leach caused a landslide in the mine in Erzincan province was above the “controllable level.” The heap leach, whose standard is below 150 meters, reached 257 meters in the mine before trapping nine workers.

Duvar English

A delegation of scientists from Trabzon Karadeniz Technical University (KTÜ) Landslide Application and Research Center has determined that that heap leach that caused landslide in the Çöpler Gold Mine in Turkey’s eastern Erzincan province was above the “controllable level.”

Hakan Ersoy, member of the board of directors of the research center, underscored, "We have determined that the heap leach, which is a maximum of 150 meters in the world standards, reached 257 meters here which is an unbelievable figure.” 

Ersoy stated that they had not come across such practice in the world, and added “The excessive water content in an uncontrollable heap leach and its accumulation at a point very close to the explosions in the production area brought the disaster."

The leach heap is the accumulation of the material used during material beneficiation. The Çöpler Gold Mine used cyanide-containing solution for the extraction of gold; hence, the leach heap that caused landslide contained cyanide. 

Many experts warned that the landslide could have led the cyanide exposure to local water sources as the mine was very close to Euphrates River and had river branches connected with the Euphrates in the mining site.

“The notion that a material stacked merely in piles reaches a height of 257 meters startled us, especially considering that buildings constructed from iron and concrete typically cannot exceed 200 meters in height nowadays. There is also a valley height of 100 meters, so a 350-metre pyramid was formed. These factors represent the primary drivers behind the (land) movement's acceleration and the exacerbation of the disaster," Ersoy stated.

A two million cubic meter mass slide in the mine site.

The KTÜ professor also stated that the same landslide could have been triggered by an earthquake as the the contemporary fault map of the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA) indicated that a fault line passes within 300-400 meters of the mine site. 

“The heap is also so close to the quarry site that the it was subjected to repetitive loads due to the explosions during the extraction,” he added.

Ersoy also underscored that they saw in the footage that the material flowed like a liquid during the landslide and said, “We think that the water content in the heap leach is higher than standards which also contributed to the disaster."

The nine workers trapper under the mass since Feb. 13 have not been saved yet. Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on Feb 21. announced that search and rescue operations were suspended until the landslides in the mining site stop.

The rescue operations had already been stopped for three days before the minister's announcement.