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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Coal Mine Blast Kills at Least 8 in Arctic

ReutersMiners leaving the Komsomolskaya mine after a methane gas explosion in Vorkuta. The mine is owned by Severstal.
A methane gas explosion tore through a coal mine owned by steelmaker Severstal in the Arctic town of Vorkuta, killing at least eight miners.

Two miners were missing late Tuesday, and a rescue operation was under way at the Komsomolskaya mine, Emergencies Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov and company officials said.

The blast occurred late Monday while 277 miners were underground, Beltsov said. He said 263 miners had been safely evacuated to the surface. Four had been taken to hospital, including one who was in a serious condition.

The Komsomolskaya mine in Vorkuta mine is operated by Vorkutaugol, a division of Severstal's raw materials division, Severstal Resurs. The company said it was not immediately what had prompted the explosion.

"It's very difficult to talk about reasons right now, because the rescue operation is continuing. The most important thing is to save people," Sergei Loktionov, a spokesman for the company said.

Vorkutaugol operates five underground mines and an opencast mine. The Komsomolskaya mine was closed after the accident, but the other five operations are still running, Loktionov said.

Coal from Vorkuta is supplied to Severstal's main plant in Cherepovets, the second-largest steel plant in the country, as well as to other Russian steelmakers.

Methane gas blasts at two coal mines in the Siberian region of Kemerovo killed 149 people earlier this year. Safety violations have been blamed for the accidents. Both mines are owned by steel and mining company Evraz Group.