Although Russia’s Siberia may be best known for its harsh temperatures and snowfall, for miles around the small village of Yakutsk last Thursday, there was something a bit more interesting falling from the sky: nearly $400 million worth of gold bars, platinum, and even diamonds.
According to reports in local news outlets, a Nimbus Airline An-12 cargo plane was attempting to take off from Yakutsk Airport when the cargo door on the aircraft came open. A fair portion on the extremely valuable cargo was said to be recovered from the runway itself, but as the aircraft traveled toward a nearby village airport to execute an emergency landing, bits of precious cargo rained down over the sixteen mile stretch, prompting local law enforcement to launch an emergency recovery effort.
In this video, you can see airport employees walking among gold and platinum bars strewn across the runway.
Witnesses have reported finding gold and platinum bars as well as diamonds strewn in the aircraft’s wake. Thus far, officials claim to have recovered at least 172 bars of gold weighing in at approximately 3.4 tons. The aircraft’s cargo manifest indicates that it took off carrying 9.3 total tons of precious cargo, though not all of it was lost during the flight.
Russian officials have claimed that the incident occurred as a result of strong winds tearing open the cargo bay door at takeoff, but some details about the incident don’t seem to support that official narrative. Images of the aircraft that have made their way onto social media seem to show damage to the underside of the plane, suggesting the issue may have been more than a faulty door latch and strong winds. Further, according to Russia’s Siberian Times, the technicians at the Yakutsk airport who prepared the plane for the flight have been taken into custody by local law enforcement.
State owned news outlets have reported that the precious cargo was the property of the Chukota Mining and Geological company. Based out of Anadyr, Russia, Chukota is a gold ore mining and geological exploration outfit that was relocating the massive shipment of gold, platinum, and diamonds to the Kupol Gold Mine in far northeastern Siberia. Although Chukota is a Russian based company, Canadian Kinross Gold actually owns a 75% stake in the business.
The AN-12 is a cargo plane that was designed and built in the Soviet Union up through the early 1970s for use as a military transport and paratrooper aircraft. Since being taken out of production in 1973, many AN-12s have continued to serve as cargo and transport aircraft in nations all around the world thanks to their 40,000 pound payload capacity and more than 3,000 mile range.
You can see images of the incident posted to Twitter by the Siberian Times below:
It’s -21C in Yakutia, sunny, we expect showers of diamond, platinum and gold… Plane loses its $368 million cargo; gems and precious metals rain over Russia’s coldest region as police and secret services stage emergency search https://t.co/NsUeOWxZf5 pic.twitter.com/8OXd6Al9is
— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) March 15, 2018
Featured Image Courtesy of Max Pixel