Three dead in underground mine accident at Russia’s Nornickel

Nornickel said its Taimyr mine would continue to operate.

By Reuters - October 22, 2019
The logo of Russia’s miner Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) is seen on a board at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 (SPIEF 2017) in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters File Photo)

MOSCOW — Three people were killed on Tuesday in an accident at Norilsk Nickel’s Taimyr underground mine in Arctic Siberia, the Russian mining giant said.

The world’s largest palladium producer and second-largest nickel producer said the facility was still working after the incident. It is one of the company’s main mines in Siberia and contains mixed ores.

At 4:30 p.m. local time three workers were found dead at a depth of 1,345 meters (0.8 miles), Nornickel said, adding that there had not been a fire, or a rockslide.

Nornickel, part-owned by Russian businessman Vladimir Potanin and aluminum giant Rusal, is also a major producer of platinum and copper.

Shares in Nornickel fell quickly in Moscow when the company reported the accident but recovered after it clarified that the mine was unaffected.

The deaths could have been caused by methane gas poisoning, TASS news agency reported, citing an unnamed source.

“Three people died, no one is injured,” TASS quoted the deputy prime minister of the Krasnoaysk region, Anatoly Tsykalov, as saying. “The reasons for the situation are being investigated. There were no technological violations at the mine.”

According to Tsykalov, two miners were initially missed at the mine, with a third disappearing after going in search of them.

All three were found dead with unopened self-protective breathing equipment, which is supposed to be used in case of emergency, on them, he added.

“Nornickel is conducting an internal investigation into the incident and will provide new information as it becomes available,” the company said in a statement.

The mine, launched in 1982, is one of the deepest in Europe. In 2015 Nornickel said the Taimyr facility produced 35 percent of the company’s total nickel output, 21 percent of its copper, 38 percent of its cobalt and 15 percent of its platinum group metals.

Reporting by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova.