BEIJING — A massive landslide engulfed a gold mining area in mountainous Tibet, burying 83 workers believed to have been asleep early Friday morning, Chinese state media said.
Mud, rock and debris swept through the area as the workers were resting and covered land measuring about 1.5 square miles east of Lhasa, the regional capital, China Central Television said.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the workers were employed by a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group Corp., a state-owned enterprise.
The disaster is likely to inflame critics of Chinese rule in Tibet who say Beijing's interests are driven by the region's mineral wealth and strategic position and come at the expense of the region's delicate ecosystem and Tibetans' Buddhist culture.
The reports said at least two of the buried workers were Tibetan, while most were believed to be ethnic Han Chinese, a reflection of how such large projects often create an influx of the majority ethnic group into a region.
More than 1,000 police, firefighters, soldiers and medics were deployed to the site. They conducted searches to detect signs of life and were accompanied by sniffer dogs, reports said.