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Run(a)way gold: Russian plane spills cargo prompting Siberian gold rush

russia plane

Locals in Sakha are searching for a golden windfall following the failure of a cargo door on a treasure-laden flight

A Russian cargo plane has spilt its cargo of gold and silver all over a Siberian runway. Following a refuelling stop the Antonov plane took off from an airport in Yakutsk in Sakha (Yakutia) eastern Russia, carrying 9.3 tons of gold from the Kinross owned Kupol gold mine.

However, shortly after take-off, and allegedly following the movement of unsecured cargo inside the plane, the rear door failed depositing over 170 bars across the runway and surrounding country.

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“One hundred and seventy two bars have been found weighing around 3.4 tonnes,” the local interior ministry told TASS state news agency. “Only part of the gold fell out – altogether there were around nine tonnes in there.”

Yakutsk Airport

Yakutsk Airport

Stanislav Borodyuk, a Russian spokesman for Kinross, spoke to the  Interfax news agency, saying that “all the cargo has been picked up, there are no losses.” He said the bars were ‘dore’, a semi-pure alloy made up of gold and silver.

The Nimbus Airlines flight was departing for Krasnoyarsk but was forced to turn back and land at nearby Magan airport as it jettisoned precious metals weighing over 18,600 pounds across an area of 16 miles.

Police cordoned off the area to prevent theft. Borodyuk told Interfax everything initially lost from the plane has now been recovered. The Siberian Times put the total value of the plane’s cargo at 21 billion roubles, approximately $368 million. The newssource also reported the technical engineers who prepared the plane prior to take-off, have been detained.

Siberian gold rush

Locals are apparently disbelieving of the official line, looking to cash in on the gold windfall. Diamonds and platinum were also reported to be among the lost cargo that fell into a snow covered swamp. “We were immediately instructed – no information for journalists, just say: ‘We saw nothing, know nothing, it is a fake’,” one local airport worker told Moskovsky Komsomolets. “I have not been in my job long. Nobody let me go close to this gold.”

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Stories now abound of a full on Siberian gold rush as flights to the area fill up with would be prospectors and locals sell maps to gold hunters. Police are said to have cordoned off a large area and are searching cars for up to 20 minutes in order to identify any found treasure; metal detectors have also been deployed.

Yakutsk

Yakutsk Airport and the surrounding area. The plane was said to be travelling in a south-westerly direction following take-off. Source: Google

The line that all the lost cargo has now been recovered has been dismissed by many who still believe the majority of the fallen gold is out there: “I will go to search at night when guards will be sleeping,” said one local. ‘To dig, to dig and to dig, before dawn.”

Further consternation has come from the nature of the flight. The Siberian Times reporting that the company said to own the aircraft denied this was their flight and that an official investigation is now underway into whether the flight was legal.

Stanislav Borodyuk, representative of Kinross Gold, said that the cargo was transported according to all necessary regulations. He told reporters, “the main thing is that no one from the crew and the two representatives of our company, were hurt in this accident”.

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