Safety at Kazakhstan's mines is back in the spotlight after 2008 opened with a disaster that claimed 30 lives the second large-scale fatal mine explosion within 18 months. Authorities have acted quickly to stem an outcry over safety standards, ordering the company operating the mines, steel giant ArcelorMittal, to improve safety procedures.
A government commission investigating the accident at the Abay mine in the Karaganda Region in Kazakhstan's industrial heartland reported its preliminary findings on January 29, just 18 days after the accident. The likely cause was a methane explosion that started a fire, according to the preliminary report. It went on to make 41 recommendations to ArcelorMittal Temirtau which operates eight mines in Kazakhstan to bolster safety. They include installing gas monitoring machines and drawing up a methane-extraction program.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.