Coal Mine Inspections Reveal 1,842 Violations

NOVOKUZNETSK, Kemerovo Region -- The country's industrial safety watchdog announced Tuesday that inspections of 58 coal mines in the Kemerovo region had uncovered 1,842 safety code and other violations.

The inspections were prompted by a methane blast at the Ulyanovskaya mine in mid-March that had left 110 people dead. A similar explosion last Thursday at the Yubileinaya mine killed 39 miners. Both mines belong to Yuzhkuzbassugol, a company based in Novokuznetsk.

In London on Tuesday, the board of directors of steel giant Evraz Group approved the takeover of Yuzhkuzbassugol, in which it previously held a 50 percent stake, Interfax reported. The takeover was announced last Friday following the Yubileinaya disaster.

A source at Yuzhkuzbassugol, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Evraz officials were expected to arrive in Novokuznetsk on Wednesday to take control of day-to-day operations.

In Novokuznetsk, the last miner who died as a result of the explosion in the Yubileinaya mine was buried in a local cemetery. The remaining miners were buried over the weekend in Novokuznetsk and nearby towns.

The Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Atomic Inspection suspended work on 59 coal faces in Kemerovo region mines. The agency went through the courts to halt work at four of the coal faces, the area in mines where coal is extracted.

The agency plans to ask a local court to suspend Yuzhkuzbassugol's license.

Alexander Sekachyov, spokesman for the agency's Southern Federal District office, said a preliminary investigation of the affected coal faces in the Yubileinaya mine revealed that a power cable had become detached from a coal-cutting machine, electrifying its exterior.

This resulted in an electric arc or a spark that produced the initial blast, which then ignited coal dust in the mine, he said. Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev said last Thursday that the coal dust had not ignited.