Prime Minister Vladimir Putin conducts a video conference on the Raspadskaya mine accident


“The Ministry of Energy, the Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management must strengthen safety and equipment standards in mines. It is necessary to develop and use only the most cutting-edge equipment that meets today's standards and that cannot be blunted – as coal miners say – turned off or damaged. It is also necessary to increase the responsibility and discipline of the manufacturers of this equipment and everyone involved in its operation, especially the administrators of the coal mines.”

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Zubkov.

Viktor Zubkov: Good afternoon, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Zubkov, could you please tell us about the current situation at the mine and what you have been doing since this morning?

Viktor Zubkov: A week ago you held a conference at the Raspadskaya mine and issued specific instructions. Today we discussed everything regarding those instructions, including the investigation into the causes of the disaster on May 8 and May 9, the issue of whether operating procedures, regulations and safety equipment met safety standards, the effectiveness of individual rescue operations and the organisation of rescue work.

Today in our studio we have Governor of the Kemerovo Region Aman Tuleyev, head of the Investigation Committee Alexander Bastrykin, Deputy Minister of Healthcare Maxim Topilin, Deputy Minister of Energy Anatoly Yanovsky, chief military expert for the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief Pavel Plat, head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management Nikolai Kutyin, chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers Ivan Mokhnachuk, chairman of the Raspadskaya mine trade union committee Nikolai Syrov, general director of VGSCh [a paramilitary mining rescue unit] Alexander Sin, Evraz Group chairman and mine owner Alexander Abramov, Evraz Group co-owner Roman Abramovich, Raspadskaya Coal Company CEO Gennady Kozovoi, Raspadskaya mine director Igor Volkov and foreman of section seven of the mine Oleg Ivanchuk.

We have discussed the condition of the injured. We have received reports that the injured are receiving required treatment and that many of them have been released from hospital. Those who are still in hospital have continued to receive treatment. We have also discussed rescue operations.

My colleagues have already reported here on what they are doing on this issue. Scientific experts have also expressed their views on the subject.

Head of the investigation group Alexander Shchukin and Nikolai Kutyin have told us about the investigation into the causes of the disaster. Regrettably, there were violations at the mine, and decisions were made to suspend operations there and demote a number of executives. However, these decisions were apparently never implemented.

We have again discussed social assistance - what you said at the meeting and what was promised... Everyone concerned, including the mine's owners, have assured us that everything will be done and that the families of the dead and the injured will receive the established amounts. I would like to add that this work is being carried out and that the lists of the dead are ready and were submitted to the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development today. From there they will be sent to the Finance Ministry, and we will make sure these funds are transferred to the region.

We have also heard from representatives of trade unions and the workforce. The main point for today is that the investigation is ongoing. And I would like to say, Mr Putin, that this is a thorough inquiry. We are waiting for the results. If some people are found guilty, they will be punished.

But the most important thing is that the industry understands what must be done to prevent such disasters from taking place at other mines. It is also necessary to take legislative action in this respect.

The mine's owners have assured us that everyone who worked at the mine - almost 4,000 people - will retain their jobs, and that the mine will be rebuilt. Naturally enough, they are cautious to cite deadlines. However, the workforce is confident the mine will be rebuilt.

Currently, conditions at the mine are stable and relatively calm. We just have to address the issues I mentioned more actively. This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much, Mr Zubkov. Now I'd like to hear from Mr Kozovoi about what specifically is being done at the mine.

Gennady Kozovoi: Mr Putin, here's what we're doing. We have visited all the aggrieved families. Local social workers and their regional and municipal colleagues are working with specific families. We have registered 35 minors and 68 family members. A commission to address social issues will be in place by the 18th.

We have all the necessary figures and have taken it upon ourselves to provide housing, pay off mortgages, carry out repairs, help children enrol in higher education and pay for that education. We are working on this.

Fifty-six people have asked for vouchers for treatment at health resorts.

Five widows have asked us to help with employment. We will address this problem as well.

I have met personally with mine employees several times - specialists, foremen, team leaders, as well as with representatives of the district trade union and members of the mine's trade union committee. I listened to their reports and we had a very serious conversation. I believe we have reached a level of understanding. I told them not to slacken their efforts. We need to recognise what has happened and rebuild the mine, to give its 4,000 workers a future. As I have reported before, we have the opportunities to do this.

At the same time, we are now restoring the mineshaft. Today we discussed replacing main ventilation fan. Regrettably, Russia does not produce such powerful fans. We will have to buy it from Germany or China. But we have resolved the issue.

We are drawing up plans for the reconstruction of buildings. We will rebuild all of them - they will be absolutely new.

The loading machine survived the disaster. As for the vertical mineshaft, we will restore it ourselves. I have already reported to you that we have a 650-person mine excavating team that can go down the shaft and carry out reconstruction. We provide new information for the media every day. Every evening at 10 o'clock we report on everything we did during the day.

We have developed and carried out measures to deal with the effects of the disaster on the surface. In particular, we have dismantled and removed all of the damaged equipment. We have restored the pitheads for shafts No. 5 and No. 4. As you know, we have reactivated the ventilator at borehole No. 8, though it is operating alone, without backup. But we are preparing the inserter, which will be ready in three days. As soon as we are permitted to install it, which will probably happen after the last victims are brought up to the surface, we will do so at once.

With the help of the Ministry of Energy we have managed to fully restore the power supply. It is working at full capacity. According to the operational plan No. 4, which was worked out on May 14, the mine rescue brigade examined 43.5 kilometres of mine tunnels in the disaster zone.

We are currently exploring strata No. 9, No. 10 and No. 3. We are using the dewatering systems that were not affected by the accident, and today we are examining whether miners will be able to work in these areas in the future. We are focusing on the dewatering systems because today was a warm, rainy, spring day, the temperature has already reached 18 degrees, and water flow has reached more than 3,000 cubic metres per hour, 1,600 of which are collected by the main dewatering system at the first level, while the remaining 1,400 to 1,500 are unfortunately flowing into the coal deposits, down to all strata of the mine. That's why our main priority for today is to stop the water at each stratum and not to allow the tunnels to flood, which would cause them to fill with gas.

We are also introducing khladon (chloroflurocarbon, known as Freon in the West). We have activated the second VNTSG-type ventilator at the well and have increased the amount of gas sucked out of this discharge by 50%.

We have examined the mine tunnels in stratum No. 10, because it is the closest stratum to the surface and it is receiving most of the water, up to 1,000 cubic metres per hour. This is quite a challenge, which we are approaching from two angles.

We sent men to explore, they will come back out this evening, and we will decide what to do then and what resources to use. We have also examined the eastern inclined shaft at 210 meters below the reference level. We have descended to that level. Yesterday it was unsubmerged, and the 900 kilogramme explosives were still there. We have left the explosives there because everything will be submerged in two days. The explosives will not go off.

We are also continuing to introduce khladon into the facilities, and we are working with the members of the mine rescue brigade to remotely monitor the air in the mine. We are working according to plan.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Abramov, you told me that it would be possible to employ people at facilities owned by the holding company other than the Raspadskaya mine.

Alexander Abramov: Yes, we are ready to provide jobs for all relatives at the group's facilities in Novokuznetsk and the Kemerovo Region. The trade union is aware of this.

Vladimir Putin: For approximately how many people?

Alexander Abramov: As of today, we've received 56 requests, but they all pertain to jobs in Mezhdurechensk, where they will be directly employed in the mine. If we receive requests for jobs in other places where we have operations, mostly Novokuznetsk and adjacent regions, we will provide jobs for those applicants as well. However, we haven't received any such applications.

Vladimir Putin: Okay. Mr Tuleyev, you promised me that you would work directly with the injured miners and the families that lost loved ones. What could you tell me about this work?

Aman Tuleyev: I am happy to report, Mr Putin. Thank you for your understanding and support. I inform you on the search-and-rescue operations on a daily basis. We have resolved the most important issues. We have discussed them with Mr Abramovich and Mr Kozovoi.

First, we've told everyone that the mine will be rebuilt. This is the most important thing. Second, as you said, every family that lost a loved one has been traumatised... all miners will continue to receive their average wage. After that, in accordance your instruction, I met with everyone - the workforce, deputies and activists. We have complete understanding with them.

Nine days have passed. By Russian tradition, commemorative lunches were held in all 60 families of the dead miners. Everything was well organised and proper.

The mine employs 3,600 people. Today we met with mine executives to discuss future jobs for these people, and jobs have been found for them. There are only a few people, about 470, who we still need to provide with jobs at other companies. They will also continue to receive their average wages.

We have taken additional measures for social protection, which I've already mentioned - annual wages, three-month wages, a million roubles from the government, 400,000 roubles to the families of the deceased and 200,000 roubles for the injured, plus a million roubles for every family from the owners of the mine.

We have also added kindergartens. Those who have children and who want to stay at home and bring them up will receive 5,000 roubles as the guardian of a child in kindergarten. Every child will receive 70 roubles a day for meals.

We have compiled a list of children who will study and in what institutions they will study, as well as a list of those who will go to health resorts.

I'm fulfilling your instructions to the letter, Mr Putin, and this support will not just end in 40 days. It will be continued until the children come of age.

Mr Putin, we are seeing some problems, however. There are incomprehensible and destructive people who are stirring up the situation. We have found two British, four Ukrainian and four Moscow sites that tell horror stories about looting and murder. We know who is behind these stories. They will not achieve anything. The atmosphere in Kuznetsk Basin is normal. People are ready to work.

Mr Putin, I have one request for you as prime minister. We are rebuilding the mine, and this is an extraordinary situation. I'd like to request that the state expert examination send representatives to the mine to work with mine executives, engineers and technicians to draw up blueprints for the reconstruction of the mine and endorse them on the spot. Otherwise we will spend more time on that than on the mine's reconstruction - maybe a year or a year and a half. This is my only request for the government. This takes care of my report.

Vladimir Putin: Okay, thank you very much. Mr Topilin, what can you say about assistance to the injured?

Maxim Topilin (deputy minister of healthcare and social development): Mr Putin, out of 132 survivors who initially asked for medical assistance, 83 people are still in hospitals. Out of them, 77 miners are in the Kemerovo Region and six are in Moscow.

Following the trip a week ago, practically all those injured in the Kemerovo Region were transferred to the State Scientific and Clinical Centre for the Protection of Miners' Health in Leninsk-Kuznetsk, where they will receive better treatment. Out of 77 people, 55 are there. Their condition is stable. Five people are still in grave condition, but medical professionals are providing all the necessary care.

As for those who are in Moscow clinics, four miners are in institutions operated by the Federal Medical and Biological Agency. Two of them are in very severe condition and two others are in grave condition. Doctors are currently doing everything to give them the required care. One miner, who is in very bad health, has been switched to a medical ventilator. We hope that we will be able to do everything that is necessary.

As for payments, the government of the Kemerovo Region has compiled the relevant lists in line with the federal government's executive order. Now the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development is checking these lists, and I hope that the Ministry of Finance will make a decision on them in the near future. They have been submitted to the Ministry of Finance for it to make the necessary payments. I have personally looked through all the lists - they are compiled properly and there should be no problem with payments.

In addition, the Labour Inspectorate has finalised all the documents for the deceased and sent them to the Social Insurance Fund for payments, in line with Law No. 125 on Insurance against Disasters. This work will also be finished soon. There should be no problems here. We will complete this work in the next couple of days.

The Pension Fund has already allocated pension payments to dependents for the loss of the breadwinner and is carrying out all other required pension procedures. This work has also been organised and is being carried out on a constant, daily basis. This takes care of my report.

Vladimir Putin: I understand that Mr Alexander Bastrykin has met with the families of the victims of the tragedy to hear their opinions on what has happened.

Alexander Bastrykin: Mr Prime Minister, the investigation into the accident at the Raspadskaya coalmine is being carried at the central office of the Investigative Committee.

Over 30 criminal investigators with experience in such cases are involved in this work. We've completed the first stage of the investigation, which includes appropriate forensic examinations and establishing the cause of death of the miners and rescuers.
We're now collecting all relevant technical documentation for further analysis, and determining which experts and expert institutions should carry out evaluations, which will help us to establish the causes of the tragedy and the conditions that contributed to it.
I'd like to report that the investigators have been instructed to carry out a comprehensive and impartial investigation and uncover all those responsible for the tragedy - not just the cogs in the machine, but also officials, regardless of their rank.

As far as my meeting with the families of those who died in the disaster, I'd like to report that it was useful for the investigation. We had several long conversations in the process; people told us about several violations at the mine, including employee safety violations. We have recorded this information and we will investigate.

In addition, we agreed to meet regularly with the families of the victims of the tragedy and the Raspadskaya workforce to report to them on the preliminary and final results of the investigation. This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. I'd like all participants of this videoconference in Novokuznetsk to pay all due attention to this information and the demands of ordinary people. Nevertheless, the government should also not escape blame, as Mr Tuleyev said today. In any case, we must act within the framework of current law.

Let me repeat once again that we must pay close attention both to the tragedy and to the problems of everyone who has been affected directly and indirectly by the tragedy.

I'd like to draw your attention to a few more issues. I'll start with safety issues. Look at what's been happening in this crucial area in the past 10 or 11 years, from 1998 up to 2008.

Occupational health and safety costs increased almost by a factor of nine. A factor of nine! I looked at the statistics for the coal mining industry yesterday. Only 659 million roubles were allocated for this purpose in 1998, and six billion roubles in 2008.

And what is happening in these fatal industries? What are the terrible numbers? In 1998 it stood at 135, then it reached 96, 121, 93, 68, 91, 126, 90, 58, and 217 in 2007. Yes, there was some improvement in certain years, but on the whole fatality rates remain almost at the same level.

Here's my question: what's going on? Allocations for safety arrangements have been growing. They have increased nine-fold! And I cannot but ask what is the money allotted for labour safety being used for. What is it spent on? On the safety of what labour and whose labour? Are these funds enough to ensure safety, given that coal production has been growing? Honestly, safety equipment is not expensive at all. In fact it's cheap.

I'd like the Ministry of Energy, the Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management and law-enforcement agencies to provide exhaustive answers to these questions.

Moreover, the Ministry of Energy and the Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management must increase safety and equipment standards in mines. It is necessary to develop and use only the most cutting-edge equipment that meets today's standards and that cannot be blunted - as coal miners say - turned off or damaged.

It is also necessary to increase the responsibility and discipline of the manufacturers of this equipment and everyone involved in its operation, especially the administrators of the mines.

The investigation into the accident at the Ulyanovskaya coalmine in March 2007, which claimed the lives of 110 people, must not be repeated. I'd like to remind you that the technical investigation revealed that the administration of the mine developed a computer programme to deliberately disable alarm equipment. The specifications mention 42 people aware of this. However, only two secondary targets of the investigation - mechanics of some kind - were brought to justice.

I know that some of the administrators of the Ulyanovskaya mine also died in that tragedy. However, I doubt that the investigation was comprehensive and objective.

Now let's return to the tragedy at the Raspadskaya mine.

Last year the Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management found several technical violations at the mine. It brought lawsuits to court four times to disqualify and dismiss Director Volkov, who's participating in this videoconference, for numerous violations. There's been absolutely no response. A terrible tragedy took place at the mine on the night of May 8, but Mr Volkov still works as the director of the mine and is sitting in the same room with you.

By the way, although several claims were made against the local government, they only spent 1.5 million roubles on claims last year. This shows that there is practically no oversight.

Therefore, I believe it would be possible to give inspectors from the Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management additional rights and powers, including the right to dismiss administrators for severe safety violations before a case is brought to court.

Second, inspectors of the Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management should be given the right to suspend operations in a coalmine if the air pollution rate reaches the critical 2%.

Of course, these procedures must be free of corruption. All the necessary conditions must be created for this. For example, air samples could be taken in the presence of administrators and the heads of trade unions, but they should have the right to appeal in court and contest these decisions.

Furthermore, we need to increase the owners' economic liability. It is true that what the owners are doing today at the Raspadskaya mine constitutes a large social programme. But this is largely due to their goodwill, and it should be obligatory, including through the use of insurance instruments.

And finally, I must say that the employees themselves must create a climate of intolerance against safety violations, careless fires, alcohol and drug abuse. These things happen and you all know it. This is inadmissible!

Pardon me for my bad manners, but is it right if one, two or three people are getting high and dozens of others are exposed to deadly danger?! How can we let this happen?

It is clear that only the miners can create such a climate of intolerance towards these violations. Of course, all of this, everything I have just said, needs to be thoroughly thought over and studied. We need to make the corresponding amendments to the Code of Administrative Misdemeanours, to our criminal laws, and then to the subordinate acts as well. We need to bring discipline to the mining rescue units, which have recently become part of the Russian Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief. We need to make them more flexible, provide additional equipment and resolve wage issues.

The Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management has to be strengthened. A specialised mines inspection department will be created under it. And the Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management will no longer be supervised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; it will be directly subordinate to the government of the Russian Federation. Yesterday we came to an agreement with Dmitry Medvedev on this issue.

Now let's discuss wage issues. These wages, as you know, include a semi-fixed portion. This includes base wages, regulated by federal industry-wide agreement between trade unions and employers, which will be effective from 2010 till 2012. And there are additional payments and regional factors. The semi-fixed part for the Raspadskaya mine stands at 46 to 48%. And in general the total number is about 50 to 60% for the whole industry.

Overall this is understandable, because wages at Raspadskaya coalmine are a little higher than in the other regions. Nevertheless, I advise both employers and the trade unions to amend the current federal industry-wide agreement to change base salary rates, which would make the semi-fixed part grow to 70% of the total, at least. This would increase the security of miners working underground and would reduce the miners' motivation to increase production at all costs by neglecting safety rules and risking their lives.

Moreover, Mr Mokhanchuk, I would like to turn the attention of the trade unions to the following. When you start working with employers, I ask you not to forget that the profitability of these mines, which produce coal for energy use, is much lower than that of those that produce coking coal. And if you make exaggerated demands in the present conditions, when even these exaggerated demands can be partly accomplished, mines producing coal for energy will be in a very difficult economic situation once things have changed. And the workers will face problems as well. Please don't forget this. We need to take this very seriously.

Now let's talk about the wages paid during the mine repair and reconstruction. We have discussed this issue already, but nevertheless I would like to repeat once again that while the mine is not in operation, all miners should receive the average wages they were receiving, calculated for the previous quarter.

We must do our best to fulfil our obligations to these people. The government will certainly do everything that it is responsible for to help.

Thank you for your attention. Good luck. Have a nice day.

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