Trade union leaders called for tougher safety legislation as
the death toll from two explosions at Russias largest
coal mine, Raspadskaya in western Siberia, reached 66
The search for 24 men still missing was suspended because of
fears of new underground blasts. The disaster has wiped nearly
$1 billion off Raspadskayas market value.
The first blast rocked the mine, at Mezhdurechensk in the
Kuzbass coal basin, late on Saturday 10 May. Rescue workers
entered the pit and a second blast killed many of them, along
with mineworkers trying to reach their trapped workmates.
Russian emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu, who visited the
scene with prime minister Vladimir Putin, told reporters at the
scene on Wednesday that there was probably only a day left to
free the remaining men underground, where methane gas levels
were three times above the maximum level considered safe.
Ivan Mokhnachuk, president of Rosugleprof, the largest
Russian miners union, told Emerging Markets
that, while rescue efforts continued, no investigation had
begun into the causes of the accident.
He said that after the explosions at the Ulyanovskaya and
Yubileinaya mines in 2007, which killed 110 and 39 miners
respectively, there had been considerable
improvements in safety procedures. At Ulyanovskaya, an
investigation established that safety equipment had been
The drive to improve safety legislation was not complete,
Mokhnachuk said. It was absolutely vital that
Russia ratified the International Labour Organizations
convention 176 on health and safety in mines, which sets down
global standards. We have raised this issue with the
government several times and will do so again, he
Joe Drexler of the International Federation of Chemical,
Energy Mine and General Workers Unions called for a
tripartite effort by government, employers and trade unions to
review current laws, regulations and practices.
Petr Biziukov of the Centre for Social and Labour Rights, a
veteran campaigner on Russian mine safety, said greater
transparency was a vital precondition to reducing accidents.
I can not accurately assess safety procedures in this
mine, or many others, because all too often the relevant
information is declared to be a commercial secret
and is not available to trade unions or to us. Safety must not
be a closed subject.
Gennady Kozovoi, chief executive of Raspadskaya, told
journalists on Wednesday that it could be years
before the vast mine, which has 400 kilometres of tunnels,
would be fully operational again. Analysts expect the price of
coking coal, which it supplies to the Magnitogorsk and
Novolipetsk steelworks and other plants in the Evraz group, to
On Wednesday shares in Raspadskaya fell by more than a
quarter, reducing its market capitalisation from $4.25 billion
to $3.36 billion. Mining sector analysts saw a substantial
impact on this years balance sheet: a research note from
Commerzbank said the EBITDA losses in 2010 could exceed $300
million if the mine remains shut until the end of the year.
Raspadskayas press spokesman, in Mezhdurechensk, could
not be contacted.