Rescuers at one of Russia’s largest diamond mines are searching for several miners still missing after a collapse flooded an underground cavern.
Water flooded into one of the Mir mine’s pumping stations from a crater where outflow had been held. Officials say 300,000 cubic metres of water were in the cavern – the equivalent of 120 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
They say the flood was caused by sudden and unexpected geological processes and the washing-away of rocks in the crater.
They say say all of the mine’s “equipment” has been regularly tested.
How many were underground at the time?
142. Nine are still missing.
One company official told the TASS news agency it was fortunate the massive water release occurred at the start of the work shift before many miners had descended deep into the mine where the water flowed.
Is a rescue operation underway?
Yes. Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry declared a state of emergency in the town of Mirny near the mine.
An official search and rescue mission is underway.
The ministry’s head, Vladimir Puchkov, said 32 mine rescuers and seven divers had arrived at the scene.
It is reported that communications were established during the night of August 4 with two or three of the trapped miners.
Russian television said the rescue operation at the Mir mine was hindered by a power cut that prevented the lift system from working.
Has anyone been rescued?
Yes. 133 workers were safely brought to the surface after the water broke through into the Mir mine in the Sakha region early on August 4.
A search was launched for ten who were missing.
One miner has since been rescued and taken to hospital in what officials have described as a “weak” condition.
Is there hope those missing are still alive?
Yes. Yegor Borisov, the head of the Sakha region, is quoted as saying water levels in the mine are stable and ventilation and electrical systems are working.
He says there is therefore hope the remaining miners are still alive.
Investigators say they are checking into possible safety violations at the mine.
The director, Mikhail Lopatinsky, has reportedly been suspended pending the results of the investigation.
The Mir mine – one million tonnes of diamond ore
The mine was launched in 2009.
It produces one million tonnes of diamond ore per year.
Last year, the diamonds it produced totaled 3.19 million carats, according to the company’s website.
The site has been used for diamond production since 1955. Open-cast mining was used at the site until 2001.
The open-cast mine is a vast round crater with a diametre of over one kilometre that is one of the largest man-made holes on Earth.
Alrosa – Russia’s largest diamond producer
Based in the Sakha region, Alrosa made a net profit of 22.7 billion roubles ($376.37 million) in the first quarter of 2017.
The company’s president, Sergei Ivanov, has flown to the scene. The 36-year-old has headed Alrosa since March and is the son of President Vladimir Putin’s former chief-of-staff.
Putin has been briefed about the accident.