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February 15, 2012 – RUSSIA - As reported the Geophysical Service of Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences- two unusually powerful explosions occurred in the last few days in the south of Western Siberia, a few dozen kilometers of the town of Belovo, Kemerovo Region, Russia.
The most recent disaster, which occurred at the Raspadskaya mine on May 8 and claimed the lives of 90 miners, focused public attention on the safety of Russia's mines and, specifically, on the Kemerovo region. Located in Kuzbass, one of the world's largest coal basins, at the time of the twin explosions Raspadskaya provided 10pc of the country's coking coal, but it is now closed indefinitely. Acccording to reports, i n the months before it exploded, the Raspadskaya mine had become a flammable hole, swirling with methane gas.
In the case of Raspadskaya, dense methane gas seems to have been the main culprit, even leading to smaller, echoing explosions in the days following the catastrophe. Russian mines also tend to ignore methane sensors, however. In the US, the limit is 20 cubic metres of methane per ton of coal; when that limit is reached, the coal bed is abandoned.
An executive at Belon, Russia's second biggest coal miner, said the company made safety a top priority after an accident at Belovo in 2004, when a methane explosion killed 13 miners. "Due to the exhaustion of old mines, we now have to dig deeper and deeper in search of coal, and it's getting more and more dangerous," said the executive. In the Kemorovo region, Belon last year pledged to spend 256m roubles (£5.5m) on safety.
The Ulyanovskaya Mine disaster was caused by a methane explosion that occurred on March 19, 2007 in the Ulyanovskaya longwall coal mine in the Kemerovo Oblast. At least 108 people were reported to have been killed by the blast, which occurred at a depth of about 270 meters (885 feet) at 10:19 local time (3:19 GMT). The mine disaster was Russia's deadliest in more than a decade.