Aug 28, 2017

ALROSA Ceases Rescue Operations at Mir: WFDB Lauds Efforts Made by Company

ALROSA has announced that it has ceased search and rescue operations at the Mir underground mine as conditions became precarious for further work. “On August 26, at 9.10 am local time, the water volume accumulated in the open pit mine was 37,400 cubic meters,” the Company declared. “The danger of uncontrolled instantaneous inrush of the water into the mine shaft makes any rescue works underground impossible.”

ALROSA said that geotechnicians had opined that the washouts which totalled over 100 thousand cubic meters and had formed in the saline rock of the mine shaft, were a very real risk which could lead to the collapse of the  lower pit bench and the destruction of the mine workings. Hence it was concluded, after due deliberation, that it was impossible to carry out any further work towards the search and rescue efforts which had been ongoing for three weeks.

“The rescue works were carried out 24 hours a day in three shifts,” ALROSA elaborated. “A total of 320 people were involved in the operation: 170 specialists of the Emergencies Ministry and about 150 employees of ALROSA. The miners and rescuers spent a total of more than 360 hours underground. The search was conducted at a depth of 550 and 600 meters, the total volume of the rock extracted amounted to 19.5 thousand cubic meters, the length of the cleared mine workings was 1,191.5 meters. Over 30 units of equipment, aviation, divers and rock climbers were involved in the search. To ensure the rescuers’ safety and prevent flooding of the levels where the search was on, two groups of additional pumping units were installed in the underground mine.”

The Company stressed that all possible measures were taken to organise “a controlled discharge of water in order to avoid the immediate inrush of water from the open pit into the underground mine”. After taking a special   permit, blasting operations too were carried out   for five days. Despite this,  it was not possible  to achieve a controlled discharge of the whole volume of water into the underground mine.

 The Company said medical experts also believed that after a passage of three weeks and given the conditions in the mine, it was not possible for people to survive.  

 Sergey Ivanov, ALROSA President said: “It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to announce that there is no more hope that we can find the missing miners alive and bring them to the surface. We are deeply shocked by what happened. This is a great tragedy for the whole company. Unfortunately, knowing that we have done everything possible to rescue the people cannot be a comfort to their loved ones. As the head of the company, I guarantee that the miners' families will receive the necessary support and financial aid – timely and in full. On behalf of ALROSA, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families, relatives and friends of the miners. We mourn with you.”

 ALROSA has already announced that it will pay a compensation of RUB 2 million to the missing miners’ relatives regardless of the outcome of the rescue operation. “These funds have been allocated by ALROSA (in excess of payments under the Collective Bargaining Agreement) and the contractor organisation Belspetsmontazh LLC,” ALROSA said. “In addition, the miners’ relatives will receive insurance payments and payments from the budgets of various levels, including those of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the municipal entity Mirny District. The families of the workers from the Belgorod Region will also receive payments from the Administration of the Belgorod region, and the families of the miners who lived in Mirny – from the budget of the Municipal Entity Town of Mirny.”

ALROSA clarified that the legal status of the miners remaining underground after the end of the search and rescue operation will be considered by the court in the near future.

Meanwhile, the  World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) expressed its condolences for the missing miners, now presumed dead (still to be so decreed by the relevant legal authorities). The  WFDB praised the huge efforts undertaken by  ALROSA to rescue eight miners trapped underground for the past three weeks.

"Firstly, our hearts and prayers are with the families of the miners who have been hoping against hope since this catastrophe happened," said WFDB President Ernie Blom. "This is an extraordinarily difficult time for them and they must be treated with the utmost consideration. ALROSA and other authorities are moving quickly and with a minimum of bureaucracy.”

He added: “On behalf of WFDB members around the world, I would also like to praise the speedy response by ALROSA which allowed 143 miners to be rescued quickly, and the way in which it rapidly put the rescue operation into place. Rescuers worked around the clock for more than three weeks facing incredible dangers and operating in conditions that are impossible for most of us to grasp.”

 "We bow our heads to the memory of the miners, but we also need to be proud of the rescue efforts and the way the worldwide industry has come together to show its concern for the men,” Blom concluded. “Beyond this, we must emphasise the fact that such tragedies are an extremely rare occurrence in diamond mining. This is because diamond mining firms have extremely stringent safety procedures in place which give paramount importance to the personal safety of employees. This is not a given, as can be seen from the tragedies that take place in other mining industries, but is another example of the way the diamond industry is a well-regulated business."