Explosion at Norilsk Nickel mine kills four

Methane build-up said to be cause of accident near Zapolyarny Mine outside the city of Norilsk in the Arctic Circle

Four miners were killed in an explosion at the Zapolyarny Mine, part of the Polar Division of Norilsk Nickel.

The accident happened during drifting activities carried out by Polar Construction Company, a contractor of Nornickel. The company blames a build-up of methane, which ignited in the shaft. Several more workers were injured in the explosion which occurred at 10 am on Friday, July 7. All other miners were evacuated to the surface and all personnel have been accounted for. Emergency services including medics and mine rescue teams were deployed to the site.

“Following this tragic accident our thoughts are with the families of our colleagues who have died and those injured. The company will provide all support we can offer to them. In the meantime our priority is on safe evacuation of other workers who were on site. This is a serious situation, but one for which the company has a prepared response plan which is now underway,” the company said in a July 7 press release.“Once this has been done we will then turn our attention to looking in more detail at what happened and drawing any appropriate lessons from it. Supplies to Nornickel customers will not be affected by suspension of work at this mine.”

Norilsk Nickel is the world's largest refined nickel and palladium producer. The Zapolyarny Mine produced 0.7% of its total nickel production last year and 2% of its copper. Even if the mine closes, it is not expected to have a major impact on Norilsk's output and profit due to its low percentage of company output, a senior analyst at Moscow-based BCS Global Markets told the Financial Times.