Earth Science News: A Gold Mine Disaster Rocks China

Qixia, Yantai, Shandong, China
View of Qixia, Yantai, Shandong, China, a community close to the Hushan mine. (Liu Kunpeng (translated), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Jim Brace-Thompson

China has had a grim history of mine disasters, with 573 mine-related deaths in 2020 alone. Although efforts have been made to improve supervision and safety, disaster has struck yet again. On January 10, 2021, two explosions in the Hushan gold mine in the town of Qixia trapped miners nearly 2,000 feet underground. This region of Shandong province is a major gold producer for China.

The cause of the explosions remains unknown, but they unleashed 70 tons of debris, cutting off access to mine shafts and disabling elevators. It was known that survivors were underground, so rescue workers quickly drilled parallel shafts to send food and water. Rescuers enjoyed a dramatic breakthrough when they discovered that steel pipes in an air ventilation shaft had kept debris from totally blocking the passage. This enabled them to reach survivors much earlier than anticipated.

Two weeks after the explosion, on January 24 eleven miners were returned to the surface alive. Unfortunately, rescue workers have found the bodies of ten dead miners. One more is still listed as missing as of this writing. Local officials say that despite difficult conditions and water in the mine, they will not give up until the missing miner is found.

After observing a moment of silence with rescuers and local officials, Yantai city mayor Chen Fei said, “Our hearts are deeply grieved. We express our profound condolences, and we express keen sympathies to the families of the vicitms.”

Author: Jim Brace-Thompson

JimBraceThompson Jim began and oversees the AFMS Badge Program for kids, has been inducted into the National Rockhound & Lapidary Hall of Fame within their Education Category, and is the president-elect for the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies.
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