BEIJING — A massive landslide engulfed a gold mining area in mountainous Tibet, burying 83 workers believed to have been asleep early Friday, Chinese state media said.
About 2.6 million cubic yards of mud, rock, and debris swept through the area as the workers were resting and covered an area measuring about 1.5 square miles, China Central Television said.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the workers in Lhasa’s Maizhokunggar County worked for a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group Corp., a state-owned enterprise and the country’s largest gold producer.
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.
News reports said at least two of the buried workers were Tibetan while most were believed to be ethnic Han Chinese. More than 1,000 police, firefighters, soldiers, and medics were deployed to the site.
The reports said the landslide was caused by a ‘‘natural disaster.’’