Rescue teams are desperately searching for at least 16 workers reported missing in a mine owned by a group of Russian diamond hunters after the pit flooded.
So far 102 miners have been brought to the surface – plus another 33 miners have been located inside the mine in Yakutia in eastern Siberia and are currently being evacuated.
Water is understood to have flooded into the mine shaft from an open-cast mine above at around 4.30pm local time (10.30am UK time) – with some reports saying the incident has occured at the pumping station.
A local emergency services spokesperson said an exhausted pit filled with some 300,000 cubic meters of water may have been the source of the flooding./
Reports are already emerging that workers complained of dangerously high water levels inside last week which needed extra pumps brought in.
It’s believed there were around 151 workers underground when the accident happened, although exact figures are yet to be verified.
The Russian News Agency TASS reports – according to the republic’s emergency services office – that: “The evacuation is ongoing. A total of 151 people were at the mine [at the time of the incident].”
The mine – which is close to the town of Mirny in Yakutia, eastern Siberia – is owned and run by Alrosa which is a Russian group of mining companies which leads the world in diamond mining by volume.
No casualties have been reported so far – yet there has been no word yet from Alrosa, which is state-controlled, on the chances that the missing miners could be rescued.
In a statement it said that the mine flooded after water burst from the quarry.
Local media reported last week that mine workers recorded dangerously high levels of underground water and that the company had installed extra pumps to pump it out.
Together with Anglo American’s De Beers unit, Alrosa produces about half of the world’s rough diamonds.
Shares in Alrosa were down 2.5% in Moscow today as news of the situation broke – but Reuters reports that they have since recovered “most of” the losses.
Yakutia authorities have launched an investigation into the incident, TASS reported, citing a source in the republic’s prosecutor’s office.
The head of the Republic of Yakutia, Egor Borisov, is heading to the scene, as is Alrosa company President Sergey Ivanov.
Rostekhnadzor, Russia’s ecology watchdog, has already arrived at the diamond mine.
The Mir mine was opened back in the 1950s – and the length of its tunnels reaches 10km (6.2 miles), according to the Alrosa website, and its depth is 1,000 meters (3,300ft).
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