Miners Killed in Ukraine Mine Explosion

A rescue worker checks a map before the start of a rescue operation in a colliery in Donetsk.
(Photo Courtesy of Reuters)
A methane blast ripped through a coal mine in eastern Ukraine on November 18, killing at least 63 miners in the ex- Soviet nation’s worst mining accident in years, the Associated Press reported. More than 360 miners were rescued but 37 others remained trapped inside the mine—one of Ukraine’s largest and deepest—with a raging fire hampering efforts to save them. The explosion occurred around 3 a.m. more than 3,300 feet deep inside the Zasyadko mine in the regional capital Donetsk. Authorities evacuated 367 miners and 28 were hospitalized. The accident, the worst in Ukraine in seven years, highlighted the lack of attention to safety in a country with some of the world’s most dangerous mines. According to experts, Ukraine’s mines are dangerous largely because they are so deep, typically running more than 3,200 ft underground. In comparison, most U.S. coal beds lie at depth of 600 to 1,200 ft. More than 75% of Ukraine’s some 200 coal mines are classified as dangerous due to high methane concentrations. Mines must be ventilated to prevent explosions, but some rely on outdated ventilation equipment. Safety violations and negligence add to the problem.

Last year, a blast at the mine killed 13 workers. In 2002, an explosion killed 20 and 54 died in a similar explosion in 2001. In May 1999, 50 miners were killed in a methane and coal dust blast there. Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, more than 4,700 miners in Ukraine have been killed. For every 1 million mt of coal brought to the surface in Ukraine, three miners lose their lives, according to official data. Despite the dangers, there is growing appetite for Ukraine’s rich coal reserves, particularly amid rising natural gas prices. The government has called for production to be increased by a third to 80 million tons this year.

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