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The high cost of gangster capitalism

Author : Alan Franck, Editor, Hazardex

25 March 2016

Pity those workers in countries where political considerations are deemed more important than their safety - their lives, even. A glaring example of this was demonstrated recently in Russia, where methane blasts in the Severnaya coal mine in Vorkuta on February 28 killed 36 miners and rescuers, but were deemed unavoidable by officials and politicians.

Soviet-era monument to miners killed underground
Soviet-era monument to miners killed underground

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said an investigation had concluded the disaster was a result of natural causes rather than negligence. Russia's industrial safety watchdog Rostekhnadzor, he said, was clear that the gas suddenly flooded into the mine and “there was no gradual methane concentration increase, so it was impossible to prevent the outburst using sensing devices."

But this is contradicted by trustworthy sources such as AFP and RFE, which interviewed miners and family members after the disaster and uncovered a very different picture. The miners’ personal gas detectors had been registering increasingly high levels of methane in the mine in the days prior to the explosions, but managers insisted that work continue.

It would seem the fact that the mine is owned by an oligarch who is particularly close to top figures in the Kremlin might have some bearing on the authorities’ reluctance to follow up on an incident that elsewhere might well have been attributed, even if only partially, to management negligence.

And so it continues – no responsibilities attributed, no lessons learned. Pity those workers indeed.

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