The plane had been taking off after refueling at the airport when its cargo door flew open. At least 3.4 tons of doré bars — semi-pure alloys of gold and silver — came tumbling out, according to the Tass news agency. The precious metals had come from the Kupol mine in Russia's Chukotka region and in total weighed about 18,600 pounds.
The plane was headed for the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, according to a statement from an investigative committee, Tass reported.
The plane had been forced to turn back to the airport, and police quickly closed off the area to prevent a gold rush, according to media reports. A video shows the remaining bundles of the alloy bars inside the plane and the door from which a third of the cargo appeared to have fallen out.
The bundles looked like large white bricks, according to a video taken of the runway.
Stanislav Borodyuk, a Russian spokesman for the Canadian mining company Kinross Gold, which operates the Kupol mine, told the Interfax news agency that the fallen cargo had been recovered in full.