Owner: Methane levels "normal" at time of Siberian mine blasts

19:58, May 10, 2010      

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Rescuers and miners talk at the administrative building of Raspadskaya mine in the Kemerovo region in Russia's coal-rich Kuzbass region May 9, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Owner of the Russian coal mine where double blasts killed 31 people over the weekend said methane content at the time of explosions was "normal," local media reported on Monday.

"It's difficult right now to draw any conclusion (as to the cause of the blast). All the indicators showed that methane levels were normal," said Vladimir Goryachkin, deputy general director of the Raspadskaya company that owns the largest coal mine in Russia's west Siberia.

Latest figures from the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry put the death toll of the explosions at 31, with some 60 people currently unaccounted for. Around 60 people were also injured.

Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who flew to the site near the city of Mezhdurechensk in the Kemerovo region, said earlier on Monday that merely 48 hours may be left for saving 13 miners and rescuers, in two locations due to rising water levels, because of the damaged drainage system.

Goryachkin also said it was premature to talk about the possible causes of the blasts that occurred at the depth of 490 meters.

"Nobody has checked the entire mine yet. It consists of over 400 kilometers of tunnels which is longer than the Moscow metro," Goryachkin said.

"Before every meter of the mine is examined, before an analysis is made, it is hard to speak of the causes and scale of the destruction," he added.

The regional Prosecutor General's Office of Kemerovo has launched an investigation into the cause of the blasts and security measures adopted by the mining company.

Founded in 1973, the Raspadskaya was one of Russia's leading coking coal producers, with total coal reserves estimated at 782 million tons.

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