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51 killed in coal mine accident in Russia

29 November, 2021On 25 November, 46 miners and five rescuers died at the Listvyazhnaya mine in Russia’s worst coal mining accident in more than ten years. According to reports, as the mine filled with smoke after a methane gas explosion, workers died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

On the day of the accident, the bodies of eleven miners were retrieved. 35 workers are still missing, presumed dead, as rescue operations have been suspended due to high concentrations of methane and risk of explosion.

At the time of the accident 285 people were inside the mine. 239 managed to get to the surface and 64 of them were taken to hospital.

One rescuer presumed dead was found alive the next morning. He had found a place with less polluted air where he was able to lie down, and then, guided by the stream of fresh air, came out closer to the surface.

The mine director and two other managers have been detained and accused of violating industrial safety rules. The local chief state inspector of the Russian technical supervisory body, Rostekhnadzor, has been also detained and accused of negligence.

In the wake of this tragic accident, authorities have launched inspections to verify compliance with health and safety regulations in the coal sector. According to the prosecutor’s office in the Kemerovo region, 31 mines were inspected on 25 and 26 November.

Violations of fire safety, the lack of equipped escape routes, malfunctioning electrical wiring, failure to conduct safety briefings and assessment of working conditions, failure to provide personal protective equipment and workwear, violations of the work and rest schedule were identified. More inspections will follow.

IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie says:

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident, and we mourn our brothers who passed away while working hard to make a living. We wish to extend the collective condolences of our union family to families of the deceased miners and rescuers.

"This tragedy once again reminds us that occupational health and safety shall be a top priority at any operation, especially at highly hazardous mining operations, to prevent further fatal accidents.”

According to the Russian Independent Coal Employees' Union (Rosugleprof), the Listvyazhnaya mine employs more than 1,500 people and, with five million tons of coal production per year, is among the leading mines in Kuzbass, Russia’s main coal region.

Rosugleprof president Ivan Mokhnachuk says:

“203 highly dangerous mines have been closed over the last three decades. At the remaining 53 operating mines, outdated equipment has been replaced with more recent one and modernization has been carried out. However, coal extraction technologies remain old. Mining accidents in Russia have been rare lately and are mainly the result of not following the rules for operating mechanisms and equipment.”

Russia is the third largest global exporter of coal after Indonesia and Australia.