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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

12 Mines Shut Down Over Safety Violations

A federal safety watchdog said Tuesday that it had closed 12 coal mines and 29 pits following inspections prompted by last week's explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine.

Safety inspections, meanwhile, started Tuesday at every mining company in the country, said the watchdog, the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Atomic Inspection.

The agency said Monday that safety violations involving the ventilation system had been found at the Ulyanovskaya mine, owned by Yuzhkuzbassugol, the country's largest coal mining company.

Three of the mines that have been shut down belong to Yuzhkuzbassugol and three others belong to the Sibirsky Coal Energy, the agency said in a statement Tuesday.

Inspections are scheduled at another 54 mines in the Kemerovo region, it said

An agency spokeswoman in Moscow referred questions to its Kemerovo region office, where officials could not be reached Tuesday.

A Yuzhkuzbassugol spokeswoman refused to comment, and Sibirsky officials could not be reached by telephone.

At least 108 people died in the methane explosion March 19. That mine used safety equipment made by British firm Davis Derby.

The company offered to send experts to Ulyanovskaya the day after the explosion, an offer that was accepted when an independent commission was set up to investigate the accident, company chairman Gerry Beetles said Tuesday.

The commission is headed by the safety watchdog's deputy head, Nikolai Kutin. Kutin said the reasons behind the blast would only become clear in the next two to three weeks.

Two Davis Derby engineers will fly to Ulyanovskaya on Wednesday to assist in the investigation, Beetles said.

Beetles said mines that had next-generation safety equipment could still be dangerous without proper supervision of that equipment. "It's all about the leadership -- the people who operate the equipment," he said.

In 2005, Davis Derby signed a $4 million contract to supply 10 mines run by Yuzhkuzbassugol with data monitoring equipment.

Sensors in the mine detect levels of methane and carbon monoxide, among other things. Kommersant reported that some Ulyanovskaya miners might have used rags to cover the sensors that detected methane in order to minimize disruption and increase output.

Mining is on par with fishing as the country's most perilous profession, according to a study by Kommersant Vlast. One in every 2,000 miners died on the job in 2005, it said. The mortality rate was the same for fishermen that year.