Kazakhstan reported on Saturday that a fire at an ArcelorMittal-owned mine resulted in the tragic loss of 32 lives. Following what seemed to be a methane explosion at the Kostenko mine, the company stated that 206 out of the 252 individuals present had been successfully evacuated, with 18 requiring medical attention. However, by 2 p.m., 21 people remained unaccounted for.
The incident represents the worst disaster in years for the Central Asian nation. The local branch of the Luxembourg-based steelmaker, ArcelorMittal Temirtau, reported that approximately 252 individuals were present at the Kostenko coal mine when the fire broke out.
The company expressed “pain” over the lives lost in the statement and stated that its efforts “are now aimed at ensuring that affected employees receive comprehensive care and rehabilitation, as well as close cooperation with government authorities.”
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev strongly criticized the Luxembourg-listed steel and mining corporation, describing it as the “worst company in our history”. Simultaneously, the company announced an initial agreement for the nationalization of its local operations. President Tokayev had previously directed his government to assume control of the company’s Kazakh branch.
ArcelorMittal Temirtau manages eight coal mines in the Karaganda region and an additional four iron ore mines in central and northern Kazakhstan. This recent fire marks another tragic incident in a series of workplace fatalities at the company’s sites in Kazakhstan.
The firm has faced repeated allegations of disregarding safety and environmental regulations. In August, a fire at the same mine claimed the lives of four miners, and in November 2022, a methane leak at another location resulted in the deaths of five individuals. Saturday’s blaze is the most severe mining accident in Kazakhstan since 2006 when 41 miners lost their lives at an ArcelorMittal site.
In the previous month, First Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar informed the press that Kazakhstan was engaging in discussions with potential investors who might assume control of the mill. He emphasized the government’s dissatisfaction with ArcelorMittal’s failure to fulfill its investment commitments, modernize its equipment, and ensure the safety of workers, particularly in light of a series of fatal accidents.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to his ally in Kazakhstan. He conveyed words of sympathy and support for the families of the deceased miners, saying, “We hope for the saving of the miners that are underground.”