At least 15 gold miners have been killed after a dam collapsed in a remote part of Siberia, according to Russian officials who are still searching for survivors. 

Heavy rains had weakened the dam and water broke through, sweeping away several cabins where artisanal miners lived, about 160 km (100 miles) south of the city of Krasnoyarsk in the middle of the country.

Officials said in a statement that water released by the dam partially flooded two dormitories of the mining camp in which 74 people lived, adding that 13 people were still missing.

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Russia’s investigative committee has opened a criminal investigation on possible charges of violation of workplace safety regulations  while local authorities said the collapsed dam was not registered by official bodies.

Russia is one of the world’s top gold producers with most of its output coming from large professional industrial mines. However, alluvial production, which is usually operated by small firms, still contributes some of the country’s gold.

Alluvial or artisanal gold mining in Russia is usually small-scale, but is still conducted by officially registered firms which are supposed to abide by health and safety rules.

President Vladimir Putin ordered all necessary measures to be taken to help those affected, to identify the cause of the disaster and prevent any impact on a nearby residential area, Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Interfax said the miners were part of Siberian privately-held Sibzoloto, which unites several artisanal mining teams.

Sibzoloto was not immediately available for comment.

Sibzoloto produced about three tonnes of gold in 2018, Sergei Kashuba, the head of Russia’s Gold Industrialists’ Union, a non-government producers’ lobby group, told Reuters. Sibzoloto is not a member of the union, he added.

Additional reporting by Reuters 

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