MAC: Mines and Communities

Disaster strikes down workers at Russian mine, part-owned by football billionaire

Published by MAC on 2010-01-11
Source: Planet Ark (2009-12-24)

Without question it's the most dangerous mining company in Russia.

In 2007, and within the space of two months, the Evraz group was held responsible for negligence which led to the deaths of 148 mineworkers. See:
http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=1896.

Then, on 23 December 2009, at least another eight people went to their deaths when transporting a consignment of explosives which detonated at another iron ore mine.

The major shareholder in Evraz is Roman Abramovich, whose main claim to fame is his ownership of London's top-ranking Chelsea football club.

On the very day of this disaster, Abramovich was reported in the Russian-owned London Evening Standard as having purchased "perhaps the world's most impressive holiday home" - a £54 million estate in the Caribbean where he would spend last Christmas "hosting a lavish party."

Explosion Kills 8 At Evraz Iron Mine In Russia

Natalya Shurmina

Planet Ark

24 December 2009

YEKATERINBURG - Eight Russian miners died and one was missing when explosives detonated on Wednesday during transport through an iron mine owned by Evraz Group, the latest disaster to afflict the industry.

The blast occurred 180 meters (590 ft) below the surface and stopped production at the Yestyuninskaya mine near the city of Nizhny Tagil in the Ural mountains, Evraz said in a statement.

Russia's mining industry has been plagued by disasters in recent years, the result of years of post-Soviet neglect and lax enforcement of safety regulations, as workers often cut corners in pursuit of production-related bonuses.

"All work at the Yestyuninskaya mine has been stopped. All staff have been evacuated," Alexei Agureyev, Evraz Group's vice-president for public relations, said in the statement.

"Eight people died, the fate of one is still unknown," the Urals branch of Russia's Emergencies Ministry said in a report posted on its site www.mchs.gov.ru/ural. "Rescue and recovery works are going on."

Evraz, whose shareholders include billionaires Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, is the largest steel producer in Russia in terms of the volumes it produces domestically.

The Yestyuninskaya mine, one of four mines belonging to Evraz subsidiary Vysokogorsky GOK around Nizhny Tagil, is a supplier of raw materials to the huge steel plant in the city.

Evraz said an investigation was under way to determine why the explosives detonated.

Regional Emergencies Ministry spokesman Alexander Sorokaletovskikh said 123 people had been in the mine at the moment of the blast and that 114 were safely evacuated. The number of missing or dead tallies with that given by Evraz.

"Preliminary information indicates that the cause of the blast was a breach of rules governing the transportation of explosives," Sorokaletovskikh told Reuters by telephone.

Evraz in particular has been afflicted by mining disasters. Nearly 150 people died in 2007 in two separate methane gas explosions at Siberian coal mines, both of which were part-owned by the company at the time, then fully acquired.

Evraz Group's domestic steel rival, Severstal, also lost at least eight miners in a methane gas explosion in a mine near the Arctic city of Vorkuta, also in 2007.

Another 12 people died in December 2008 at a mine extracting raw materials for fertilizer production. The accident at the Arctic mine, part of the PhosAgro fertilizer group, occurred when workers were laying explosives for a controlled blast.

Russia is the world's fifth-largest iron ore miner and its untapped reserves of the mineral, a vital raw material in steel making, are the biggest in the world.

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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