At least 28 workers have died in a fire at a Kazakhstan coal mine operated by ArcelorMittal Temirtau, according to the Ministry for Emergency Situations.
After what appeared to be a methane blast, 206 of the 252 people at the Kostenko mine had been evacuated, with 18 needing medical assistance, the company said in a statement on Saturday. Some 21 people had still not been located by 2pm (08:00 GMT).
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ArcelorMittal Temirtau is the local representative for Luxembourg-based multinational ArcelorMittal, the world’s second-largest steel producer. It operates eight coal mines across the Karaganda region and a further four iron ore mines in central and northern Kazakhstan, in Central Asia.
The fire is the latest in a string of workplace deaths at sites operated by ArcelorMittal Temirtau. In August, four miners were killed after a fire erupted at the same mine, while five people died following a methane leak at another site in November 2022.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Saturday his government is ending its investment partnership with Arcelormittal. He expressed condolences to the victims’ families and declared a national day of mourning on October 29.
The government said in a statement that it was finalising a deal to nationalise the company, which operates the country’s biggest steel mill. ArcelorMittal confirmed that in its own statement.
“ArcelorMittal can also confirm, as communicated earlier today by the government of Kazakhstan, that the two parties have been in discussions concerning the future of ArcelorMittal Temirtau and recently signed a preliminary agreement for a transaction that will transfer ownership to the Republic of Kazakhstan,” it said.
“ArcelorMittal is committed to completing this transaction as soon as possible in order to minimise disruption to the greatest extent possible.”
Last month First Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar told reporters that Kazakhstan was in talks with potential investors who could take over the mill.
He said the cabinet was unhappy with ArcelorMittal’s failure to meet its investment obligations, upgrade equipment and ensure worker safety after a series of deadly accidents.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies