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Rescue operation at Pioneer mine halted, trapped miners presumed dead

On March 25, the regional directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee also brought charges under RCC Article 293 ("Negligence"), based on the results of an inspection conducted by the prosecutor’s office

MOSCOW, April 1. /TASS/. The rescue operation at the Pioneer gold mine in the Amur Region in Russia’s Far East has officially been halted, ending the search for the group of miners trapped underground after a mine accident, who are now presumed dead.

The accident occurred on the morning of March 19, when 13 mine workers ended up being trapped under the rubble after a section of the mine shaft collapsed and caved in. Rescue operations were launched on the same day, engaging manpower and equipment from a number of regions. The rescue operation was halted, however, due to the high risk of another collapse threatening the lives of rescue workers.

TASS has gathered the key takeaways about the incident and rescue work.

What is known about collapse

- A report of a collapse at the Pioneer gold mine in Zeysky District, Amur Region, came in to emergency services on the morning of March 19 (evening of March 18, Moscow time).

- Thirteen miners were reported trapped under the rubble. They had traveled from other regions to work at the mine on rotation shifts; five miners were from Russia’s Republic of Bashkortostan in the Urals region. Their last recorded location was at a depth of 147 meters below ground.

- The volume of the rock wall blowout amounted to over 190 cubic meters, surpassing initial estimates by almost 22-fold.

- As at the time the rescue operation was halted, the risk of a repeat mine shaft collapse remained.

Rescue work

- On the day of the mine accident, the Amur Region declared a state of emergency in order to mobilize all forces and equipment. Emergency response centers were operating outside of the region as well, for instance, in the Kuzbass coal mining region in southwestern Siberia.

- Rescue work at the mine began on March 19 and ended on April 1. Over 200 first responders and emergency specialists worked on site, including an operational team from the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s Main Directorate and a team of psychologists who provided aid to the miners’ relatives.

- Probe boring of five wells into all underground layers where the trapped miners may have sought shelter showed that all relevant structures were filled with rock, clay, ice and water.

- After the rescue operation was halted, entry to the mine was restricted. Currently, specialists are working on eliminating the threat of another collapse.

Aid to families of deceased

- Pokrovsky Rudnik, the mine’s management company, said that the families of workers now presumed dead will receive payments equaling their yearly salary. The miners’ children will be paid monthly compensation stipends until they reach adulthood.

- Amur Region Governor Vasily Orlov said that the families of the deceased miners will receive financial aid from the regional government’s reserve fund as well.

Russian leadership’s reaction, investigation into accident

- On March 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin heard reports by Emergencies Minister Alexander Kurenkov and Governor Orlov on the situation at the mine, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

- The head of state instructed that all necessary measures be taken to rescue the miners and provide all necessary emergency aid.

- On March 19, the Far Eastern branch of Russia’s mining safety regulator, the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Supervision (Rostekhnadzor), reported that it had launched an investigation into the causes of the mine collapse. On the same day, Amur Region investigators opened a criminal case under Russian Criminal Code (RCC) Article 216 ("Violation of Safety Rules During Operations"), and the regional prosecutor’s office took control of the investigation.

- On March 25, the regional directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee also brought charges under RCC Article 293 ("Negligence"), based on the results of an inspection conducted by the prosecutor’s office.

- On the following day, law enforcement operatives detained the managing director of the Pioneer mine. On March 27, he was charged with violating operational safety rules (RCC Article 216) and taken into custody.