Tibet landslide buries 83 miners


An aerial photograph shows the Khumbu Icefall along Mt. Everest's West Shoulder on May 15, 2003 near the Nepal-Tibet border.


Paula Bronstein

A landslide came crashing down a mountainside in Tibet on Friday, burying 83 miners in a gold mining area near the capital of Lhasa.

Local hospitals have been put on alert to expect casualties. Rescuers have so far found no signs of the trapped workers.

A three-kilometer-long section of land, with a volume of two million cubic meters, slipped and buried the workers, who were thought to be mostly ethnic Han Chinese, in their camp of huts in Maizhokunggar county.

More than 1000 emergency workers were at the site, which is at an altitude of 4600 meters (15,000 feet), trying to rescue survivors. They were using 200 vehicles, 15 dogs and sets of life-detecting equipment.

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The miners had been working in a mine operated by a subsidiary of state-owned China National Gold Group, which is China's biggest gold producer.

Reports said that the disaster would probably anger critics of Chinese rule in Tibet, who think Beijing's interests are only in the region's mineral wealth, which comes at the expense of the ecosystem and Tibetan Buddhist culture and traditional way of life.

China has discovered huge mineral resources in Tibet in recent years, including tens of millions of tons of copper, lead and zinc, and billions of tons of iron ore. The reserves have an estimated worth of more than $100 billion.