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Cause of Russian Coal Mine Deaths to be Announced Shortly

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9 April, 2007

The deadly 19 March methane explosion at the Ulyanovskaya coal mine in Russia is still under review, with dozens of possible causes being prematurely suggested. The safety technical inspectorate of Russia will issue a report on the tragedy in April, two weeks after the official on-site inquiry ends.

Meanwhile, the inspectorate, early in April, closed 29 other coal mines in the Kutnetsk coal fields of Kemerovo region, as well as four other collieries in the Rostov region. Several of the mines belong to Yuzhkuzbassugol, owner of the Ulyanovskaya mine and Russia’s largest coal producer. Others belong to Sibirsky coal.

"Danger Zone" (entrance at Ulyanovskaya mine)

 The head of the state inspectorate agency ordered work at the 33 mines halted for five days, so the agency could check for compliance of technological documentation per estimated project capacity, as well as safety regulations and changes in project designs.

The Ulyanovskaya mine disaster of 19 March 2007 is Russia and the Soviet Union’s worst in decades. It has claimed 110 lives. Recovery efforts have found the bodies of 108 miners, while two others remain deep inside mine shafts.

The Ulyanovskaya mine is recognised as having the most current and sophisticated gas control equipment of any coal mine in Russia. Some 20 senior managers and technicians were inside the mine when the blast occurred, killing all of them. Included among them was a British technician of the company that designed the system, and his interpreter.

ROSUGLEPROF President Ivan Mokhnachuk

Nearly all of the 1,068 miners employed at Ulyanovskaya are members of ICEM Russian affiliate Independent Coal Miners’ Union (ROSUGLEPROF). The union’s vice president, Ruben Badalov, served on the official investigation team of the Russian state commission at the mine site. He recently returned to Moscow, and the investigative report on the cause of the tragedy is due in the coming weeks.