Rescue workers continue scouring the mountainous terrain of a gold mine site in Tibet to save more than 80 workers trapped underground following a massive landslide Friday, even as authorities said chances for finding any survivors are fading.
Several miners were buried early Friday when a landslide filled the mine worksite with debris and rocks. It is located in Gyama village in Maizhokunggar county, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) east of the regional capital Lhasa.
Although 3,500 rescue workers were struggling to reach the trapped miners, they have been able to retrieve only two bodies. Footage broadcast by the official Chinese television CCTV showed rescuers gathering supplies and using life detection equipment in their search efforts.
The fate of other miners is unknown, but authorities quoted by the Associated Press said the chances of the buried workers' survival are slim. Continuous snowfall has hampered search operations since Saturday noon.
"The rescuers are conducting an inch-by-inch search, but they still cannot locate the missing miners," Wu Yingjie, deputy secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China said, as reported by the AFP.
"The two rescue priorities for now are searching for the buried and preventing subsequent disasters," he added.
The mountainous region in Chinese-controlled Tibet is rich in precious metal and mineral deposits and a number of Chinese mining companies are engaged in extensive mining activities.
The miners worked for a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group Corp., a state-owned enterprise and the country's largest gold producer.
The tragedy has sparked questions about mining exploration in the region, whether the resource-hungry mining companies’ activities have ruptured the delicate ecological balance.
“The Tibetan plateau is considered the lungs of Asia. Those short-sighted mining activities chase after quick benefits but ignore the environment for future generations,” Wangchuktseten, a Tibetan scholar at Northwest University of Nationalities in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, told AP.
Chinese government has been promoting mining in the region, claiming it would bring in development to one of the poorest areas in the country. But local Tibetans allege that none of the mining activities benefit the region as both the wealth and resources in the region are siphoned off by the Chinese mining majors.
The Chinese government said that the cause of landslide is under investigation, while state media said the tragedy was caused by a natural disaster.