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An explosion in a mine in Kazakhstan leaves at least 45 dead

Stringer Agence France-Presse This firedamp explosion in the Kostenko mine in Karaganda adds to a long list of tragedies that have already occurred in Kazakh ArcelorMittal sites.

The bodies of 45 miners were found on Sunday the day after an explosion in an ArcelorMittal mine in Kazakhstan, according to rescuers, making this accident the deadliest in the history of this Central Asian country since the independence from the Soviet Union.

As of 8 p.m. local time, the Ministry of Emergency Situations was still searching for the last missing minor, but the chances of finding him alive were almost zero on Sunday, the day of national mourning in this immense country rich in natural resources.

This burst of firedamp in the Kostenko mine in Karaganda (center) adds to a long list of tragedies already occurring at ArcelorMittal's Kazakh sites, and pushed the government to announce an agreement to nationalize the local subsidiary of the global mining giant. steel.

Immediately after the accident was announced on Saturday morning, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, ordered to “end cooperation” with the group.

President Tokayev did not speak on Sunday, but a “documentary film” was broadcast on more than a dozen state channels to justify the government's decision.

In the presence of the victims' families in Karaganda on Saturday, he called ArcelorMittal “the worst company in the history of Kazakhstan from the point of view of cooperation with the government.”

“Every miner is a hero »

In the process, the Kazakh government and the Luxembourg-based steel giant led by Indian businessman Lakshmi Mittal announced a preliminary agreement to “transfer ownership of the company in favor of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”

The Kazakh subsidiary, ArcelorMittal Temirtaou, however clarified on Sunday that it had signed this agreement “last week”.

On Sunday, the flags with a golden eagle and sun on turquoise blue background of Kazakhstan were at half mast for this day of national mourning, as in Karaganda, noted an AFP journalist.

In the capital of this industrial region where mines regularly swallow workers, many residents marched to pay their respects in front of the monument in honor of the miners who died in recent years.

“Every miner is a hero, because he goes down without knowing if he will come back up,” summarizes Sergei Glazkov, himself a former miner.

“The best solution would be complete nationalization, without compensation for the current owner,” says Daniïar Moustafine, a 42-year-old seller, in front of this monument representing a slag heap, the face of a miner buried under coal and a woman holding a child with a minor's helmet.

“Criminal responsibility”

The new director appointed by the government, Vadim Bassine, assured Sunday that social guarantees would be maintained and even improved, while the company pays salaries above the regional average.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, around 200 miners have lost their lives in Kazakhstan, the vast majority at ArcelorMittal sites. The deadliest accident until that of the Kostenko mine took place in 2006, when 41 miners were killed in the Lenin mine.

The arrival in 1995 of the group in Kazakhstan, which operates around fifteen factories and mines in the center of the former Soviet republic, initially brought hope in the socio-economic slump following the fall of communism.

But the lack of investment and insufficient safety standards were subsequently repeatedly criticized by the authorities, while unions regularly called for stricter government control.

ArcelorMittal assured Sunday having “made many efforts to strengthen security” in recent years.

“So that people do not die, the government must monitor, there must be criminal responsibility”, told AFP Aleksei Svistounov, a 48-year-old security guard met in Karaganda, while the Kazakh authorities had already recorded nearly 1,000 violations of industrial safety rules in the group's mines this year.

Rescuers had warned the day before that the chances of finding survivors were very low, due to the lack of ventilation in the mine, the low autonomy of emergency respirators for miners and the power of the explosion, which spread over two kilometers.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116