Ulyanovskaya mine

19/03/2007 - Ulyanovskaya Mine / Methane Explosion, Coal Dust Explosion

The Ulyanovskaya Mine disaster was caused by a methane explosion that occurred on March 19, 2007 in the Ulyanovskaya longwall coal mine in the Kemerovo Oblast. 110 people were killed by the blast, which occurred at a depth of about 270 meters (885 feet) at 10:19 local time (3:19 GMT). The mine disaster was Russia's deadliest in more than a decade.

Kemerovo Oblast governor Aman Tuleyev said that when the blast occurred, "the mine was preparing to launch "Eighteen" an advanced mining safety system developed in the UK. The system signaled a sudden discharge of a large amount of methane and caving at 14:30 local time." According to the Russian Prosecutor General's office, "the explosion occurred when equipment was being tested". The explosive agent is thought to have been either methane or coal dust. The main theory for the cause of the explosion is that it resulted from "a breach of mining safety".  However, the mine operator has denied any connection between the explosion and the new equipment.

Among the dead was a British mining consultant, Ian Robertson, who worked for the Anglo-German company International Mining Consultancy. According to Russian sources, the company was involved in auditing the mine's coal reserves. He was accompanied by most of the mine's senior management, who had gone underground shortly before the explosion; the entire party was caught in the blast.  The audit was reportedly being conducted in conjunction with the mine operator's planned initial public offering of stock shares to obtain cash for a $700 million investment programme.

The operator of the mine is Yuzhkuzbassugol ("South Kuzbass Coal"), a half-owned associate of the Evraz Group conglomerate, which is Russia's largest producer of deep-mined coal.  The mine, which opened in 2002, is one of the newest pits in the Kuzbass coal-mining region of Siberia, with modern equipment made in the UK and Germany. It has been producing at an annual rate of about 1.5 million tonnes of coking coal .

In the aftermath of the accident it was revealed that the mine had suffered "problems with equipment safety rules". It was also announced that 60 coal mines in the surrounding area were to be inspected for similar violations soon after the disaster, and that the entirety of the nation's mines would be inspected during the coming weeks.

Preliminary findings from the Ulyanovskaya investigation found that safety equipment had been tampered with deliberately to decrease the readings of methane levels in the mine. According to Governor Tulayev, this was done "consciously in order to increase coal production". Five mine inspectors were subsequently dismissed for allowing the mine operator to "breach safety rules in order to make a profit."   The blast was said to have been caused by sparks from an exposed cable igniting methane gas, which then ignited coal dust.

This accident claimed the lives of 110 people.

Other Information

Rescuers on Tuesday found one survivor and hunted for four people still missing in a Siberian coal mine, after a gas explosion killed at least 106 in Russia's worst mining disaster for over a decade.

Amongst the dead was a visiting Briton, who was carrying out a coal reserves audit underground when the explosion ripped through the mine, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

British mining consultancy IMC confirmed that one of its employees, Ian Robertson, was in the mine at the time of the blast but did not have firm information on his fate.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that a British national died in an accident on March 19.

"We are still not certain that next of kin have been informed."

The mine is part-owned by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Smoke, pockets of gas and collapsed roofs were hampering rescue efforts in the warren of shafts nearly 300 metres (1,000 feet) underground at the Ulyanovskaya mine in the Kemerovo region, officials said.

"Yes, one survivor came out today," Russia's Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu told Channel One television.

Shoigu, who was sent by President Vladimir Putin to oversee the rescue operation, did not give any details about the survivor's condition.

The Federal Prosecutor-General's office said the explosion occurred while equipment was being tested in the mine, one of Russia's most modern.

"Initial indications are that methane or coal dust exploded, a result of which the roof collapsed," it said in a statement.

Earlier, a spokeswoman for the Emergencies Ministry said 106 people had been confirmed as dead and the fate of four people remained unclear.

Ninety-three people have been brought safely to the surface.

Guards barred most journalists from entering the mine complex, which is surrounded by birch forests and soot-blackened snow. Only reporters from state-controlled television channels were allowed in.

Vans drove out periodically through the gates, carrying away the bodies of the dead.

Emergencies Ministry officials arranged for grieving relatives to wait at a nearby hotel, where psychologists were providing assistance.

Local authorities declared three days of mourning, cancelling entertainment events and flying flags at half mast.

Ministry officials promised compensation of up to 2 million roubles ($77,000) to each family affected by the disaster, Interfax news agency reported.

Television pictures showed rescuers with coal darkened faces emerging from the mine and scores of ambulances were on standby to treat those brought to the surface.

An estimated 203 people were working at the mine when the blast occurred. Officials said some miners had managed to reach the surface on their own.

Accidents in Russia's mines are frequent but the Ulyanovskaya complex was only opened in 2002 and inaugurated on Putin's 50th birthday.

Authorities believed a failure to follow safety rules was the most likely cause of the disaster, the worst mining tragedy since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

"The main theory being considered by the prosecutor's office is violations of mining work rules," Kemerovo region prosecutor Alexei Bugayets told Interfax news agency.

Russia's state industrial safety watchdog, Rostekhnadzor, said there were "no obvious technical causes" for the blast.

"Rostekhnadzor is currently looking at several possible causes. These include possible earth movements and a possible mistake in planning," the agency said in a statement.

About 3,500 km (2,175 miles) east of Moscow, the mine is at the heart of Siberia's Kuznetsk basin, known as Kuzbass, which holds some of the biggest coal reserves in the world.

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov called for tougher safety rules at mines but there was no immediate reaction from Putin.

Russian miners say safety rules are frequently broken in coal mines, some of which date from Josef Stalin's mass industrialisation drive in the 1930s or even earlier.

The Ulyanovskaya mine belongs to the Yuzhkuzbassugol company, Russia's largest underground coal mining firm, which is 50 percent owned by the country's second-biggest steelmaker Evraz. It supplies coal to fuel Evraz steel plants.

Yuzhkuzbassugol's management owns the other 50 percent and has operational control of the company.

Russia's wealthiest man, London-based oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, controls 41 percent of Evraz.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-443500/Briton-dies-Russia-coal-disaster.html#ixzz41VYLfZVY
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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-443500/Briton-dies-Russia-coal-disaster.html#ixzz41VY9feKj
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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