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ArcelorMittal Temirtau coal mine in Kazakhstan where fire still raging could be out of action for at least a year

Christian Fernsby |
ArcelorMittal Temirtau's Kazakhstanskaya coal mine in Kazakhstan, where a fire has been raging for five days, could be out of action for at least a year after the blaze has finally been extinguished, said Gennady Silinsky, First Deputy Director of the Central Headquarters of the Professional Militarized Emergency Rescue Services.

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"I can't say exactly how long [the emergency response] will take, but I can say for sure that one it has finished the mine will not be able to produce coal for at least a year," Silinsky told reporters on Tuesday.

He also said that in the mine, where the firefighting operation is into its fifth day, the working conditions are extremely difficult - the temperature is high, and in places up to 65 degrees. New measures are constantly being taken to extinguish the fire.

He said that "unfortunately not all tunneling had been carried out for coal and the fire has spread, getting into parallel mine workings via the existing network of tunnels, and we are containing the fire in four locations."

Silinsky said that "based on the current situation and the experience of extinguishing such fires, a decision was made to isolate the network of mine workings to prevent the fire from spreading further and getting into existing mine workings, which are needed for mine ventilation."

"With this in mind we plan to erect a whole network of gypsum-coated barriers. The material has already been delivered to the mine. Engineering is underway.

"But since the situation is changing constantly, based on where the fire is spreading and the gas situation, the number of barriers might also change. So the work will not be completed in the coming days," he said.

Musa Tanabayev, deputy chairman of the Emergency Situations Ministry's Industrial Safety Committee, told journalists that seven expert evaluations had been arranged and would be carried out by international and Kazakh expert organizations.

"These are evaluations of fire-fighting, the operation of the automatic mine atmosphere control system, the work of the Gornyak rescue team, the technical compliance of the audio recordings, the condition of the conveyors, mine workings, and materials, including the conveyor belt on which the fire occurred.

"They have been designated and the organizations have been identified. They'll start working soon. Witnesses are now being questioned," he said.

Efforts to extinguish the fire at ArcelorMittal Temirtau's Kazakhstanskaya coal mine continue, but the fire is still raging, the Emergency Situations Ministry said on Tuesday.

"The fire in the Kazakhstanskaya mine was still raging at 8 am on August 22. The situation has not improved," the ministry said.

"Efforts to contain the fire are underway. A decision will be made to isolate the emergency area with gypsum blocks," according to the statement.

A fire broke out at the Kazakhstanskaya mine at 10:05 a.m. on August 17. A conveyor belt caught fire in the workings of coal slope D6 (horizon 170 meters).

There were 227 people in the mine, who were brought to the surface through the flank shaft; 222 miners were evacuated, 13 were hospitalized and five were found dead.

ArcelorMittal Temirtau is a part of the international steel concern Arcelor-Mittal. The company owns 15 coal mines and iron ore mines in Kazakhstan.

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