46 miners killed in methane gas explosion at ArcelorMittal mine in Kazakhstan

Article by Kerry Hebden

A METHANE explosion at a mine in Kazakhstan run by ArcelorMittal Temirtau has killed 46 workers. The tragedy, which occurred at the firm’s Kostenco coal mine on Saturday, is the country’s worst mining disaster for more than a decade. The previous deadliest mine accident in post-Soviet Kazakhstan resulted in the death of 41 miners at another ArcelorMittal site in 2006. 

The firm said 252 people were underground at the time of the fire at the mine near Karaganda, southeast of the capital Astana, and that 206 people were safely evacuated to the surface. None remain unaccounted for. 

“No words can adequately convey the devastation the company feels following this accident,” ArcelorMittal said on its website “After a day of mourning on Sunday in Kazakhstan and across the ArcelorMittal group, a five-minute silence was held on Monday at 11am local time across all ArcelorMittal offices and operations around the world.” 

The world’s second-largest steelmaker said they will support the affected families, including providing monetary assistance to bereaved families to cover all funeral and memorial expenses. A one-off payment equivalent to ten years’ salary, purchasing housing, repaying personal loans, and the covering of all education fees for children up to the age of 23 will also be provided. 

ArcelorMittal Temirtau, the local unit of Luxembourg-based multinational ArcelorMittal, operates eight coal mines across the Karaganda region and a further four iron ore mines in central and northern Kazakhstan. But it has come under increased pressure from the Kazakhstan government to transfer its ownership to the republic following a series of fatal accidents. 

In August, four miners were killed after a fire erupted at the same mine, while five people died and four others were hospitalised in November 2022 after a methane gas leak at a mine in the same area. Since 1991 – when the Soviet Union collapsed – around 200 miners have died in Kazakhstan, the vast majority at ArcelorMittal sites, the Guardian reports. 

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has ordered investment collaborations with ArcelorMittal Temirtau to be terminated, and called its partnership “the worst enterprise in Kazakhstan’s history in terms of cooperation with the government”. 

ArcelorMittal Temirtau has confirmed that prior to the incident, it had signed a preliminary agreement to hand over its ownership to the state, and that it is “committed to completing this transaction as soon as possible in order to minimise disruption to the greatest extent possible”.

Article by Kerry Hebden

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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