Gold bars worth millions of dollars have fallen out of a plane taking off from Russia’s Yakutia region, famous for its diamond deposits. Ruptly was one of the first to film the valuables inside the damaged jet after the incident.
Photos circulating on social media appear to show gold bars wrapped in material scattered on the runway at Yakutsk Airport, in the country’s major diamond-producing region. The precious metals fell from the Nimbus Airlines An-12 plane when its cargo hatch accidentally flew open upon takeoff, Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed on Thursday.
The plane was carrying more than 9 tons of “concentrate containing precious metal” that belonged to the Mining and Geological Company in the neighboring Chukotka region, the committee said, without naming the metals. The ill-fated hatch fell on the local auto market, causing no injuries.
Yakutsk Airport insists that the plane was operational and was ready for the flight. After leaving its cargo on the runway, the plane made a successful landing in the nearby Magan Airport.
Media report, citing witnesses, that the glittering metal bars seen in the photos are indeed gold, platinum and gems. TASS cited officials from the Interior Ministry as saying that some 172 gold bars weighing about 3.4 tons were recovered. According to the Mash Telegram channel, the whole cargo is worth the hefty sum of 21.6 billion rubles (US$380 million).
According to an official from the Canadian-based Kinross Gold Corporation, which operates mines in Russia, the trove on the runway are Doré bars, semi-pure alloys of gold and silver, which are created at the site of a mine, and later transported to a refinery for purification.
Local residents were hit by ‘gold fever’ after news about the precious metals was leaked to the media, Yakutsk-based outlets reported. A map with detailed directions showing the place of the treasure site has appeared online. However, all the bars have now been collected, a law enforcement source told TASS.
As soon as the photos emerged on social media, people started making “tongue-in-cheek” comments about the interesting trove on the airport’s runway. “Is there anyone from Yakutsk? Let’s rush to the airport! There is gold!” one person wrote under hashtag #Yakutskgold. Despite freezing temperatures in Yakutsk – meteorologists predict -33C (-27F) on Thursday night – people are ready to try their luck. “Siri, find tickets for the next flight from Moscow to Yakutsk,” one man wrote.
“I wish I were in Yakutsk,” one person wrote wistfully, while another joked that Yakutia is such a rich region that “gold just pours from the sky.” Indeed the Russian Far Eastern region is well-known across the globe for its gold mines, as well as its jewelry and cut diamond production.