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Mine explosion kills eighteen in Northern Russia

11 February 2013

On February 11 the Russian Interior Ministry said nine people had died and eight more could be trapped under rubble at the Vorkutinskaya coal mine in the northern Komi region after a gas explosion. Later in the day, Interfax said the death toll had increased to 18, with 10 brought to the surface.

The blast, at a mine owned by a division of one of Russia's largest steel producers, Severstal, was caused by a build-up of methane gas, the Ministry said in a statement.

A total of 259 miners were working underground when the explosion took place and the majority have made it back to the surface, according to the Emergencies Ministry, with some accompanied out by rescue workers.

Initial reports had said around two dozen miners were working in the shaft where the explosion took place.

The mine, in the northern city of Vorkuta, is part of the coal mining division of the Russian steel-making giant Severstal, whose mills it provides with hard coking coal concentrate.

According to AFP it has been operational since 1973 and has an output of 1.8 million tonnes of coal a year, with total coal reserves estimated at 40 million tonnes.

Methane gas explosions remain a frequent occurence in the coal mining industry in Russia, despite recent drives to improve safety.

In 2010, 68 people were killed in twin methane blasts at Russia's biggest underground coal mine, the Raspadskaya mine in the Kemerovo region of Siberia.

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