United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts expressed sorrow and outrage over the deaths of more than 50 miners and rescuers in a Russian coal mine.
The tragedy occurred Thursday in Siberia’s Kemerovo region when coal dust caught fire in a ventilation shaft. At the time of the accident, there were 287 people in the mine.
“The hearts and prayers of the entire UMWA family are with the families of those Russian miners and rescuers who were killed yesterday in a horrific methane explosion. No miner, anywhere in the world, should have to worry about whether or not they will be coming home at the end of their shift. But it appears that was exactly what these miners confronted,” said Roberts, a West Virginia native.
Among those who died were five rescuers who suffocated while trying to reach dozens of missing miners.
News organizations reported that the Listvazhnaya coal mine in Belovo had been inspected by multiple agencies for safety and fire violations, forced to shut down nine times and fined more than $55,000.
“It is beyond tragic that these men died in a mine that had a history of safety violations yet received little more than a slap on the wrist from Russian authorities. It does not matter if it is Russia, China, India or the United States: Mine operators who routinely put workers at risk should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Roberts said.
“Such punishment will not bring these miners back and it will not end the pain their families will always feel. But if those who allowed this tragedy to occur are not held responsible for their actions, something like this will happen over and over again. For the sake of the thousands of miners who still toil in dangerous conditions in Russia, accountability must come.”