Report from the field: Tailings dam fails at silver mine in Turkey

May 11, 2011 • Payal Sampat

Google Earth image of the Kutahya area BEFORE the tailings dam breach. The tailings impoundment with three interior walls is at left.

Closeup of the Kutahya tailings impoundment after the breaches. Credit: Hasan G kvardar.

KUTAHYA, Turkey, May 10 Experts are urging residents near a silver mine in Western Turkey to evacuate after the failure of a dam holding back 15 million cubic meters of cyanide-laced mining waste. Heavy rain expected for the next three days could cause the dam to collapse, sending a river of deadly waste toward drinking water supplies and the Black Sea.

The dam, part of the mine operated by Eti Silver Corporation, failed Saturday, once again underscoring the inherent danger in dumping toxic mining waste in pools held back by dams. Hasan G kvardar, a mining engineer who is working with non-government organizations in the region to assess the situation, provided this firsthand report and accompanying photos: