Dozens trapped, two killed in Iranian coal mine explosion

Two coal miners have died and more than 50 remain trapped after an explosion in a mine located in Iran's northern Golestan province.

Speaking to Press TV, the English-language arm of Iranian state television, the head of the provincial Red Crescent, Hossein Ahmadi, said there were 26 people trapped. Sadegh Ali Moghadam, the provincial director general of disaster management, provided a similar figure, saying there could be anywhere between 24 to 26 workers inside the Zemestanyurt mine.

The blast happened at 12:45pm (09:45 GMT), at a time when workers were changing shifts, Aljazeera reported, adding that the mine employs about 500 people. Rescue operations are underway, but details of the accident have not been provided yet.

While rich in oil, Iran’s mining industry has been taking off as of late. Last year, the country produced 1.7 million tonnes of coal, an increase from previous years, thanks to the reduction of international sanctions.

The country also has the world's largest proven zinc reserves estimated at roughly 300 million tonnes, but the sector is vastly underdeveloped according to BMI Research, with just 0.5% mined so far. Iran sits behind China, Kazakhstan and India as the world's number four producer of zinc ore.