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Week in review

February 15th, 2013

A mining and exploration retrospect for February 9 to 15, 2013

by Greg Klein

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Negligence, aging infrastructure behind Russian mining disasters

Just two days after at least 18 people died in Russia’s latest coal mining accident, an investigation wrapped up into a much bigger disaster that took place in 2007. Six mine employees and three government officials now face criminal charges for safety violations causing a methane gas explosion that killed 110 workers, RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday.

Negligence, aging infrastructure behind Russian mining disasters

Monday’s Komi mine disaster took place 1,200 miles from Moscow
in “a grim part of northern Russia that was initially developed as
part of the Gulag system of labour camps.”

Methane gas has been blamed for Monday’s Komi accident as well, although some sources also point to aging infrastructure. The Komi blast took place about 800 metres underground in “a grim part of northern Russia that was initially developed as part of the Gulag system of labour camps,” the Independent stated. About 250 miners were present. In 2010 another Russian mine disaster claimed over 60 lives.

On Friday the owner of the Komi mine, Russian steel giant Severstal, announced production had resumed.

RIA Novosti published an infographic illustrating the danger of methane gas.

Some improvement in China despite high death toll

A death-to-tonnage ratio paints a disturbing picture of Chinese mine safety. For every 100 million tonnes of coal produced in the country last year, 37 workers died, China Daily reported on Tuesday. Citing government sources, the paper said the death rate was down “from 56.4 deaths per 100 million tonnes of coal output in 2011, but still well above the U.S. level of 1.9 in 2011.” Coal mining accidents killed 1,384 last year compared to 1,973 in 2011, the paper added.

So far this year China has had at least 45 people die in coal mining accidents with seven others missing, according to the U.S. Mine Rescue Association. The organization attributes its info to news reports that “do not represent the actual total number of miners killed or missing in China mine disasters.”

Would-be miner to sue B.C. government

Pacific Booker Minerals TSXV:BKM has hired a lawyer “to advance litigation against the province of British Columbia” for rejecting its proposed Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine, the company announced on Wednesday. Last October two B.C. ministries denied the project an environmental assessment certificate even though it passed an environmental assessment review.

De Beers blockade typifies Canada’s country risk

One native blockade ended February 7 only to be replaced by another three days later. On Sunday a new group of about 16 protestors prevented winter convoys from reaching De Beers’ Victor diamond mine in northeastern Ontario. By Friday afternoon the company was reportedly in court asking for an injunction.

The blockades struck at a crucial time when a winter road allows approximately 45 days to haul heavy equipment, fuel and other supplies to the isolated location. The rest of the year the ground is too soft. As a result, De Beers spokesperson Tom Ormsby said the blockades could “jeopardize the health and safety of our employees and the future of the mine,” the Toronto Sun reported on Friday.

The grievances seem to stem from a 2005 impact benefit agreement with the Attawapiskat native community 90 kilometres away. Paraphrasing Ormsby, the Timmins Daily Press wrote, “Sometimes it’s because someone who was dismissed wants to be rehired, or they feel they are owed money from a contractor or they are not being compensated properly for their trap line.”

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