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Vol. 81/No. 20      May 22, 2017


Iran: Dozens of coal miners killed in methane explosion

Iranian Labour News Agency
Portal into Zemestan-Yurt mine in northeastern Iran where methane gas explosion killed at least 42 miners, trapped others underground. Miners protested lack of safety protection.
A methane gas explosion at a coal mine in northeastern Iran May 3 killed at least 42 miners, with others still trapped underground. The blast occurred during shift change at the Zemestan-Yurt mine near the city of Azadshahr. The mine employs more than 500 workers.

“We complained a hundred times about safety issues,” one of the workers said in a May 4 YouTube interview. “They have created private companies and the nature of these employers is they only think of coal and money.” The mine is owned by private and state shareholders, including Mining and Trade Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh.

According to Iran’s FARS news agency, 21 of the casualties were miners “who were outside and rushed to help trapped miners through a tunnel that collapsed.” Dozens of miners were trapped in two different sections of the mine, Pir-Hossein Kolivand, head of Iran’s Emergency Center, told the media. Dozens more were also injured in the blast.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is in a tight re-election race with conservative rival Ebrahim Raisi, visited the mine May 7 and spoke to miners and family members of those killed in the explosion there. The election is scheduled for May 19.

“Those responsible and anyone who had a fault in the incident must be found and dealt with accordingly, without any exceptions,” Rouhani told over 100 miners.

‘Why is there no safety at the mine?
“Why is there no safety at the mine? Why does no one care?” a spokesman for the miners yelled at him, captured on video and posted on social media. “Last year we gathered in front of the governor’s office together with our wives because we were unpaid for 14 months. And you, the president, didn’t even notice.”

The miner said that workers at the mine earn the equivalent of $265 a month.

“Can you live with that?” he told Rouhani. “Look at this mother with seven children. We have nothing to eat.”

Chanting “it’s a day of mourning for workers,” miners pounded on Rouhani’s car as he left the area.

Workers were trying to keep the miners alive by pumping air down to them, while high levels of the methane gas in the area have slowed rescue efforts. Hamidreza Montazeri, deputy head of the provincial emergency services, told PressTV that 25 people involved in rescue operations had to be taken for treatment for gas inhalation.

The government said the mine would be shuttered for six months.
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Logging train derails in British Columbia, kills 3 workers
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