Search team recovers body from İliç mine seven weeks after disaster

The body of 35-year-old Uğur Yıldız was recovered from under the collapsed soil pile at the İliç Gold Mine in Turkey’s eastern Erzincan province, on the 53rd day of search operations. Bodies of eight workers remain under the tonnes of cyanide-laden soil.  

Duvar English

The search team on April 5 reached the body of 35-year-old worker Uğur Yıldız on the 53rd day of operations after the landslide disaster struck the Çöpler Gold Mine in the İliç district of Turkey’s eastern Erzincan province. 

Nine workers on Feb. 13 were trapped under tonnes of soil contaminated with chemicals after a heap exceeding recommended amounts slid, exposing cyanide to the environment. 

Yıldız had been working at the gold mine in İliç for six years, according to reporting by the ANKA News Agency. His body was found in the “manganese mine” in Çöpler Mine, where he was presumed to be at the time of the landslide. 

Energy and Natural Resources Minister Alparslan Bayraktar announced that Yıldız’s body was recovered in a statement made on his social media account. He said, "Our teams continue to work 24/7 for the other miners. I extend my condolences to the family of our worker brother."

Meanwhile, the Erzincan Deputy from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Mustafa Sarıgül described the discovery as a “great tragedy,” adding that he was saddened to reach one of the workers this late. 

Search operations were paused in March due to the risk of further landslides. 

The accident was a result of a series of decisions by the operator Anagold Mining Company and the Turkish officials, neglecting workers’ safety and the environment.

After the accident, the Environment Ministry revoked the license of the mine.

Six suspects, including the Canadian manager of the company and engineers employed at the mine, were arrested as part of the investigation launched by the Erzincan Chief Public Prosecutor's Office. 

Another three suspects were released on judicial control measures.

Experts noted that such a disaster at the mine was a long time coming, despite their repeated warnings. 

Attorneys from The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) filed a petition to an Erzincan court in November 2023, months before the accident, warning against “demolition, sliding, and slipping risks” in the mining facilities. 

In 2022, the mine was shut down for 88 days after a cyanide leak was detected. The Turkish Environment Ministry approved a three-fold capacity increase at the mine after the accident. 

Although the Ministry rejected claims of cyanide leakage to the Euphrates River, experts held that exposure of such magnitudes would harm the environment even without direct contact with the river.