The methane built up silently, first in the ceilings of the Russian coal shaft, then expanding downward, possibly undetected, until an errant spark ignited the cloud, setting off an explosion. Dozens of people — both miners and rescuers — were killed.
No, this wasn’t the tragedy that hit the Listvyazhnaya mine in Russia’s famed Kuzbass coal basin last week. This was another disaster that struck 11 years ago at another mine, Raspadskaya, about a three-hour drive to the southeast, also in the Kuzbass.
In the 11 years spanning two of Russia’s deadliest mining disasters — at least 51 at Listvyazhnaya, 91 at Raspadskaya — coal mining has grown significantly in the country. And it’s poised to grow even further. The Russian government has called for increased annual production to reach a minimum of 485 million tons by 2035.
That’s up from 441 million tons in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic put a brake on the global economy. Optimistically, the government says, production will hit as much as 668 million tons in that period.
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