At least 13 people are currently trapped under rubble following a rock collapse at Russia’s Pioneer gold mine. 

In a statement on Telegram, governor of the Amur region Vasily Orlov said that rescue work had begun in the first minutes of the emergency, and emergency services “are mobilizing all forces and means to help the victims”. Orlov added that mechanised clearing of the transport slope is under way, as well as efforts to restore communications. 

He stated: “A regional emergency regime has been introduced in the Amur region. Mine rescue teams from the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations from Neryungri and Khabarovsk arrived to help the mine specialists, and rescuers from the Primorsky Territory are also following to the site… 

“In addition, a reserve of specialists from Kuzbass has been prepared.” 

He added that he had spoken about the emergency to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who then ordered officials “to take all possible measures to save the victims”.  

The cause of the rock collapse remains unknown and the likelihood of a successful rescue has not yet been made public. 

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The Pioneer Mine is one of Russia’s largest gold mines, located in Russia’s Amur region in the east of the nation near the border with China. The mine is owned by Petropavlovsk, which has been facing major financial difficulties in recent years. In 2022, the company went into administration and was forced to quickly sell most of its assets to UMMC-Invest in a deal worth $600m (Rbs55.15bn). 

Petropavlovsk fell into significant financial jeopardy when heavy sanctions were placed on Gazprombank as a result of the war in Ukraine. Gazprombank was formerly Petropavlovsk’s sole gold buyer and its main lender, and the sanctions severely restricted Petropavlovsk’s ability to repay its loans.