Siberian plane rains gold-silver alloys worth S$480m after cargo door gets ripped apart

A handout picture provided by YakutiaMedia news agency shows precious metal ingots on the runway of the airport of Yakutsk.
A handout picture provided by YakutiaMedia news agency shows precious metal ingots on the runway of the airport of Yakutsk.PHOTO: AFP

It was raining gold and silver in Siberia on Thursday (March 15), after a plane lost part of its cargo while taking off from Yakutsk airport.

Local media reported that the plane was carrying nearly 10 tonnes of dore bars, which are semi-pure alloys of silver and gold, but about a third ended up scattered as far as 26km from the airport.

The total value of the load was 21 billion rubles (S$480 million), according to The Siberian Times.

Yakutsk airport said in a statement that the left flap of the cargo hatch of the Nimbus Airlines Antonov AN-12 plane had been torn off by the wind.

The crew decided to return to Yakutsk, but they later landed the plane at the nearby airport of Magan.

According to AFP, Russia’s Investigative Committee had found that as the plane gathered height, the cargo door "became damaged due to the shifting of cargo” and “part of the cargo was scattered on the runway."

A video of the incident shared online showed big blocks of the precious metal strewn across the runway.

The remaining pieces inside the plane were seen in another video, which included a shot of the door that was ripped off.

Police quickly sealed off the runway and the authorities called an emergency search to recover the precious metals, according to The Siberian Times.

However, according to YakutiaMedia, people had already started to search the surrounding areas for the treasures and a map outlining the location had appeared on social media.

AFP, quoting the local interior ministry, said that a total of 172 bars weighing around 3.4 tonnes were recovered.

The gold-silver alloys were from the Kupol mine in Russia's Chukotka region and owned by Canadian mining firm Kinross Gold.

A Russian spokesman for the company, Stanislav Borodyuk, added that “all the cargo has been picked up, there are no losses”.

The plane had been en route to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, which is about 5½ hours away.