Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a video conference with Novokuznetsk on relief efforts for the Raspadskaya mine accident


During the video conference, the prime minister spoke with the widows of the miners and rescue workers killed in the Raspadskaya mine accident and discussed the status of relief efforts with the other meeting participants.

During the videoconference, the Prime Minister took questions from the widows of the miners and rescue workers killed in the Raspadskaya mine accident, which primarily concerned government support for the families and children of the victims.

Government officials then briefed Mr Putin on the progress of cleanup work at Raspadskaya. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin reported that 50 of the prime minister's 65 instructions on cleanup have been fully executed while implementation of the remaining 15 is in progress.

Kemerovo Region Governor Aman Tuleyev said that work is going according to schedule and that cleanup crews would begin pumping water from the mine on August 18. Mr Tuleyev also reported that the average monthly wage at Raspadskaya has been increased to 40,000 roubles and that the families of the 23 miners whose bodies have not yet been recovered have received government compensation.

Nikolai Kutyin, head of the Federal Service for Supervision of the Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management, reported that newly drafted amendments to the Civil Code would impose higher fines for violations of safety regulations in the coal mining industry.

Another issue discussed at the conference was the supply of electricity to the Raspadskaya mine. Deputy Finance Minister Alexander Novak announced that the government will allocate 1.7 billion roubles for this purpose.

In his concluding remarks, Mr Putin said he expects the Raspadskaya mine to be rebuilt as soon as possible so that it can resume operations and return to full capacity on schedule.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Hello, Mr.Sechin, colleagues. Welcome to you all. You've already begun work.

Today I would like to discuss the progress on the cleanup and restoration of the mine and how social issues are being addressed. Ours is a big country and there are many problems. Lately we have been consumed by fighting the wildfires, helping the victims, dealing with the impact of the drought on agriculture - quite a number of problems.

However, we should on no account forget about the challenges that arose not long before the wildfires, including the tragedy at the Raspadskaya coalmine. I see that family members of the miners who lost their lives are with us today. Let's begin with the social issues and then we will let these women go and discuss production matters.

Mr Tuleyev, have all necessary tasks been carried out? Money from the federal budget and from the mine's owners has been distributed to all the victims' families except those whose bodies have not yet been recovered. But we had agreed that it would not be one-time assistance and that help would not be provided indiscriminately, but that the mine's management, its owners and the regional administration would deal with each family on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the needs of the children - education, rest and the solution of housing problems. Please begin by discussing this issue. I would like to hear what is being done on it.

Aman Tuleyev:  I can report that your instructions on the cleanup and restoration of the mine are being followed meticulously. There is strict adherence to the schedule you have approved.

As of today, 2,100 people are engaged in cleanup and restoration work. 

As I had reported previously, all the work is being done manually to prevent another explosion. The main part of the mine that was swept by fires has been blocked off, all the main bulkheads have been built. Thanks to the good work done by Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, we have installed more powerful pumps and we will begin pumping out water on August 18. True, there is a lot of water to be pumped, 2.5 million cubic metres. So we will recover the bodies of the eleven remaining miners by the end of September, God willing. We do not know whether the first stage of the fire reached them, but we hope to recover their bodies. 

So, the main fires have been put out and, to repeat, we are starting the process of pumping out the water.

Now about wages. Your order has been carried out. For the main occupations you have singled out the average monthly pay is now 40,000 roubles. But Mr Sechin, also on your instructions, looked into this matter in detail today and we have agreed (the director-general of the mine, Mr Kozovoy, is here today) to go further and raise the average monthly pay to 40,000 roubles not only for the underground workers, as agreed earlier (that is, the first part of your instruction has been fulfilled), but to increase the pay of other workers, the second category and so on.

I think we will make payment before the cleanup and restoration work is completed. Accordingly, we have taken the following measures: to launch wall face 9 (you know the layout of the mine). If we launch it within a month, we will be able to produce half of the amount of coal the mine used to produce. This is a critical issue for us. Why? Because the longer it takes to restore the mine, the more people feel demoralised. People get the feeling that they can get something for nothing, that they can be paid 40,000 roubles and do nothing. We would like, if possible, the State Expert Commission to step in. We are able to launch the wall face within a month. So, your instructions regarding wages have been carried out, but the work continues.

Regarding the families of the victims. For the 60 victims that have already been buried, everything has been done for their families. The only thing I am continuing to keep an eye on is children and students. You have asked me to do it and I will continue to monitor the situation, as you have said. The toughest problem is the families who are present here at this meeting. There are 23 families. We cannot rest until we recover the bodies of their loved ones, as you've said. 

As of today, these families have also received all social benefits due to them. Twenty-three families have received the full measure of government aid. They are receiving the average monthly wage each month, plus 5,000 roubles from the regional budget for every dependent in the family.

Mr Putin, I can also report that we have opened a charitable fund, and I would like to thank all the people across the country who have responded to our plea, 23 million roubles have been raised so far.

We have decided that after we recover all the bodies, we will sit down with the families of the deceased and decide how best to use the additional 23 million roubles. I think for the time being we should pay 200,000 roubles to the families of the deceased, 75,000 roubles to those who have been seriously injured and 30,000 to those who have sustained minor injuries. 

I would be grateful if all the ministries would pitch in. I am particularly grateful to Mr Sechin for his prompt response. All your instructions have been carried out. Work with the families goes on. On Miner's Day we met with them, as we reported to you, and indeed with all the families of the miners who lost their lives in Kuzbass, that's 2,600 families. We listened to all their problems and provided assistance. There are many problems, Mr Putin.

I am aware of the problems with the wildfires, and I am aware of the assistance you have provided. If possible, we ask you to support us and allocate at least 200 or 300 million to address the other problems of these 2,600 families. If this is not possible, I will accept that and we will look for other sources of money.

To sum up, Mr Putin, all your instructions have been carried out. Thank you for all you have done personally. That concludes my report. 

Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Mr Tuleyev. Why did I ask you to take part in this meeting? Word has reached me that some of the victims' families think that not all the promises made to them are being kept. That is why I have asked all the shareholders of the Raspadskaya mine to meet together. True, two shareholders, so-called minority holders - Abramovich and Abramov - are not actively involved in running the mine and the company, but I have asked them to come, too.

I would like to hear from the victims' widows who are present here. Do you have any questions? If so, please ask. I would like to hear them from you directly. 

N. Vavilova: I would like to thank you, Mr Putin, and the entire government again for the moral and financial support. And a big thank you to Mr Tuleyev and all those who are working with us. This work is being done in the local communities, including the town of Osinniki where my family lives. Everyone we seek help from responds immediately. There are no problems. And we are very glad that we have not been left to deal with this burden on our own. That's it, I can't go on. 

Vladimir Putin: Again, if any of the women present are aware of any problems that require more attention, please let us know.

N.Merzlikina: I am the widow of one of the miner's killed in the accident. I would like to thank you, Mr Tuleyev, and the local authorities for your assistance. Wherever we turned we were met with care and attention. On the eve of the holiday, meetings are being held with the widows of the lost miners, we all communicate and meet up and our families are friends. This common misfortune has brought us together because it is something we all share. We also meet with the widows of miners who died earlier. And from these meetings we realized that our situations are not the same. They do not demand compensation, but we believe that the government should pass a law to protect the families of all miners, so that each gets a fair deal and all the miners and their families are protected. This is our suggestion.

Vladimir Putin: You know, such matters are very difficult to solve retroactively, but we will think about it. The general rule is that a law cannot be applied retroactively. But I repeat, I have taken note of what you've said. We will think about it and discuss it today to ensure that such issues are being addressed according to uniform standards throughout the country and the industry. That is the way it should be. 

I am aware that the investigation by the Prosecutor General's Office is well underway and will proceed. As I said at our first meeting, we will determine the cause of the accident. Experts will continue working until there is total clarity as to the cause of the accident. That's the first thing. Second, I myself will come and meet with people not only by video link but directly, and not only with those who are present here, but with the workers.

By the way, one of the complaints that has reached me is that there is no contact with the owners. Well, the owners are here. If you have any questions or grievances, now is to time to discuss them. The main owner is actually the manager, Gennady Kozovoy.

Mr Kozovoy, I have a question for you: How would you assess the workers' mood now? Describe your work with the families of the victims. How much are miners being paid and how do you propose to organize work, including the payment of wages, once cleanup and restoration are complete?

Gennady Kozovoy: Mr Putin, you already have all the information and figures on insurance claims. I would like to add that our agency provides additional assistance to the victims' families. We are helping the families of the 23 miners whose bodies have not been recovered to find jobs. Today, two people requested assistance and we provided employment for their grown-up children. We supply fuel, including firewood and coal, to those who need it. These are all additional expenses. We have also signed agreements to cover educational expenses for four people and are providing legal advice to common-law wives of the deceased miners. Today, we received assistance requests from four people: Ms Onishchenko, Ms Nazarova, Ms Krivtsova, and Ms Orlova. We are helping them to formalise their rights to qualify for compensation payments. 

Vladimir Putin: Sorry to interrupt you, Mr Kozovoy. There is a simple and clear concept, which is stipulated in the law. It says that regardless of whether a marriage is formally registered or not, if people lived together and shared household expenses, they are considered a family. And such family members enjoy the full range of rights regardless of whether their marriage was registered or not. In addition, I urge you not to stick to bureaucratic formalities when considering specific real-life situations, which are not covered by the law.

Gennady Kozovoy: Also the transportation expenses for the relatives. Today, one of the relatives requested an interest free mortgage to buy an apartment, and I approved it. In other words, the current matters are under constant control. I have a special representative - Ms Savina. She is in constant contact with all the families and is reporting everything to me, so we can address any and all issues as they arise.  

With regard to your instructions on miners' wages, we have adopted a new wage schedule at the Raspadskaya mine for the period from June 1 until the mine is fully restored. I would like to stress that the new wage schedule has been introduced for a limited period only, until the end of the restoration work on the Raspadskaya mine. Under the schedule, the miners' wages have been 100% of the pay. As you instructed, together with the industry unions we have set the fixed rate of the salary at 70%. But for the period of the restoration work, it will be set at 100% of the total pay.

Please show the slide.

Mr Putin, miners have requested, and today they repeated their request during a meeting at the Raspadskaya mine, to clarify the list of occupations and ranks which eligible for a monthly wage of 40,000 roubles and over. First, it will promote better work quality, as miners stressed, and will also contribute to their professional development. This is inevitable. Therefore, we suggest the following approach for the restoration period: to pay all 4th-rank workers involved in the restoration work a wage of 40,000 roubles, as previously discussed. You can see it on the slide. Fifth-rank workers will be paid a wage over 40,000, and payment for night shifts will greatly increase this amount.

The unskilled workers, who were not involved in the relief and restoration effort, will also receive a raise, corresponding to the base wage. On average (everybody had a different wage in the first quarter) it will be between 9% and 27%. In other words, all the requests they made during the meeting with you...Those who used to be paid 28,000, drift miners for example, have received a 40% to 45% raise on top of their base salary.

But today they spoke against this wage leveling, as it reduces workers' motivation; therefore we propose to make improvements in this area.

When we resume coal production and the mine returns to normal operations, the fixed component of the salary (which is set at 70%) will automatically increase by 20-25% from the preceding period. In other words, the minimum wage will remain at this level, and then the new schedule will be applied.

Vladimir Putin: That's good, Mr Kozovoy, but when I met with the miners' representatives, they did not ask for any wage leveling, but specifically mentioned the mine's restoration period, during which people of different ranks are essentially doing the same work, but are paid differently. They asked to put things in order and ensure social justice during this period. Therefore, in general you should act based on these principles. With regard to the basic remuneration formula in the industry and at your mine, a single system needs to be developed in collaboration with the industry unions, one that will lead to increased productivity and work quality.

Good. Thank you very much for the report.

Gennady Kozovoy: We will work on this.

Vladimir Putin: Ok, thank you. I have a question to the head of Rostekhnadzor, Mr Kutyin. How is the work progressing on my earlier instructions to improve the safety rate in the industry?

Igor Sechin: Mr Putin, I apologize, but Mr Kutyin has been invited to the second part of the meeting following the meeting with the families of the victims. With your permission, he will report then.

Aman Tuleyev: Mr Putin, we had a meeting at the Raspadskaya mine earlier, and Mr Kutyin fully confirmed the execution of all of your instructions and my report to you. 

Vladimir Putin: Good, thank you. In that case, I would like to thank the ladies. Thank you very much for attending this meeting! We will let you go and proceed to the second part of our meeting on specific industry issues.

Galina Akentyeva: Mr Putin, I have a question for you.

Vladimir Putin: What's the question? Please, go on.

Galina Akentyeva: I'm the wife of a miner, Fyodor Akentyev, and our situation was rather complicated. As a mother, I would like to thank you for looking into our family's problems in detail. The social workers provided flats to our children, and I would like to thank Mr Tuleyev for that. You just said that all families are entitled to the same rights regardless of whether the marriage has been registered or not. My husband and I lived apart in the last few months to improve our living situation. But the mine's administration did not consider me a common-law wife: We were paid one million roubles, and that amount was divided among our children, but I never got anything from the mine. The children collected the money and then gave it to me. And now, when I ask the superintendent of our dormitory to make a repair or something like that, he tells me that I don't have the right to any assistance because our marriage was not registered.

Vladimir Putin: This is wrong. I have already said, and will repeat now, that all families are equal under the law and are entitled to all social benefits, if in your case it can be confirmed that you lived together and shared a home.

Galina Akentyeva:  Yes, we had lived together for thirty years.

Vladimir Putin: I ask the administration of the mine to proceed from this fact. Mr Tuleyev, please fulfill all obligations towards this family.

Aman Tuleyev: I will, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

Igor Sechin: Mr Putin, we have discussed the issue both with the mine's administration and the shareholders. It will be resolved.

Vladimir Putin: I have spoken with the shareholders and they have no objections. All we need to do is to establish a general approach for resolving such issues. Any more questions? No?

Olga Korotenko: May I ask you another question?

Vladimir Putin: You may. 

Olga Korotenko: Mr Putin, I have two children: a daughter and a son. My son is 15. Soon he will have to serve in the military, and I would like to ask you if he can get a draft deferment? Right now he is my only source of support.  

Vladimir Putin: We need to see what the current legislation says. And if he is eligible for deferment, then yes, he can. But I'm not sure.

Aman Tuleyev: We will sort it out.

Olga Korotenko:  Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: But it does not depend on me, it depends on what the law says.

Natalya Nesterenko: Can I ask a question?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Natalya Nesterenko: We all have children of different ages: some are older, some are younger. I have a small baby. I have already started thinking about his education 10 or 12 years down the road. Right now the education system is being reformed. New owners could take over at the mine, but I don't think the situation would change greatly. Can the government give any guarantees that our children will be entitled to attend the universities of our city or region on government scholarships in 10 or 15 years?

Vladimir Putin: This issue can be easily resolved even at the regional level: a resolution by a governor, a long-term one, on this issue is sufficient. In due time the region will help you. The expenses will be minimal for the region, so I see no problem. 

Aman Tuleyev: Mr Putin, we have such a law, but let's bear in mind that we are talking about 15 to 20 years in the future. We will make relevant amendments if necessary.

Vladimir Putin: I was not aware of that, but I assumed that the issue could be resolved quite easily, especially in a region such as yours. The regional deputies will definitely support you. We, the government, will step in if needed, but in this case we have a regional law in place, and it's unlikely that further action will be necessary. If further action from the government is required, please let us know and we will do what is necessary. Any questions, please? No? Then I would like to thank these women for their participation, we will move on to production-related issues in a few minutes in a different format with specialists from the Russian government in attendance.

* * *

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon once again. Mr Sechin, I would like to start with the information you have about the Raspadskaya mine, you visited it today. How is the reconstruction work there proceeding? What is being done to localise and extinguish the fire at the mine? What is the overall situation there, in your opinion? Please, go ahead.

Igor Sechin: Mr Putin, today we are working in the Kemerovo Region in accordance with your instructions. We visited the Raspadskaya mine, met with the miners and inspected how the orders you gave during your visit there on June 24 are being implemented. I can say that 50 out of 65 orders have been fulfilled and 15 are being implemented now.

As for the reconstruction of the mine, when you set this goal during your visit to the mine, the situation was rather alarming. The fire was growing with a speed of 200 meters per hour, especially in the sixth and seventh seams. Work to mitigate the effects of the accident at the Raspadskaya mine is progressing according to operational plan No.9. These plans are amended in response to the changing situation at the mine. Within this time, over 2 million cubic metres of inert gas has been pumped to the mine and 81 fire barriers out the 106 fire barriers needed to put out fire have been erected. About 152 linear metres of debris have been cleared in the mine tunnels, 12 km of pipelines have been laid, and a water pumping system has been installed. About 1.8 km of mine tunnels have been checked and reinforced. As a result, as Aman Tuleyev has already mentioned, the fire is now under control. It has just about been localised to the 5th block, and we plan to start pumping water out on August 18.

At the same time, 17 more fire barriers have to be installed. It will take at least 55 days of non-stop pumping before all the water has been extracted from the mine, because a great deal of water was pumped in during the preparatory stage to extinguish the fire. When the water in block No.5 reaches the -66.5 metre mark it will be possible to carry out exploration work to locate the bodies of those who died. This is the primary task you set us during your visit to the mine, something you reiterated to the families of those miners and rescuers who died, that we should see this work through to completion.

Special projects for fire fighting and rebuilding the Raspadskaya mine have been prepared. These are separate projects: one for the fire-fighting effort and another for the long-term reconstruction of the mine. These projects are now being examined. This will soon be completed, and the reconstruction stage will begin. The Raspadskaya miners have themselves been asking, Mr Putin, for normal, scheduled work and a sense of how this is moving forward. They are asking for the examination of these projects to be accelerated, and they want to get back to work as normal. We spoke about this with the top managers of the mine and regional government officials. Deputy Head of the Main State Expert Assessment Department Vladimir Vernigor is at this meeting today, and in moving our work forward we will consider speeding up all decisions that would allow the mine to work as normal.

All the proposals regarding technical solutions have been prepared, and there is a proposal on technological safety improvements. The head of the Federal Service for Supervision of the Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management Nikolai Kutyin will report on that.

Almost all the company's workers are now working on repairing the mine. Preparatory work is underway to launch an open-pit coal mining area, which we also visited today. Mr Putin, this work has good prospects, as the reserve balance stands at about 1.2 billion tonnes of coal. This will provide the mine with work for 80 years ahead.

In the nearest future all decisions necessary for work to continue at the mine will be taken. This concludes my report, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you, Mr Sechin. Let us hear from Nikolai Kutyin. In July you put forward proposals in conjunction with the Ministry of Energy. Could you remind us what these proposals were and how they are being implemented? What is being done to improve safety in the industry and in other potentially hazardous industries? These are the range of questions I would like to ask you, including some specific questions connected with the work at the mine. Here I am referring to the installation of modern technology that guarantees safety, the disposal and recycling of methane, and so on. Please, go ahead.

Nikolai Kutyin: Mr Putin, in line with your instructions, we have studied the norms and rules covering work down mines and at other hazardous sites. We have now defined the main areas where we need to develop new rules for the design of mines and other hazardous facilities, as well as 142 current industrial safety regulations that need to be amended.

Several conciliatory meetings have been held and several documents have been prepared. Part will soon be introduced to the State Duma and some of them have already been approved by the State Duma. These were changes to the Code of Administrative Violations, as you ordered. We have reached a joint agreement to the effect that decisions on closing down mines and other hazardous industrial sites and on dismissing their heads who neglect safety rules thereby putting people's lives in danger, should be taken immediately during the supervision and inspection process.

We also revised the fines that will be imposed on anyone found contravening these safety regulations - here I am referring to those regulations there to restrict work in hazardous zones and prevent people's death in these hazardous industrial facilities. So by September we will have prepared a plan for legal support measures and will have organized the cooperation of all the executive agencies involved, as well as the State Expert Assessment Department, regarding the implementation of these measures and their introduction to the Government and the State Duma. This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Right, thank you. Is Mr Novak from the Finance Ministry here?

Alexander Novak: Yes, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Novak, we discussed plans to improve the mine's external power supply at our meeting on June 24. We talked about building two or three additional substations and transmission lines. The question was raised as to whether we should support the companies by financing these projects from the federal budget. Have you considered that possibility?

Alexander Novak: Mr Putin, in line with your instruction we considered this issue together with the Energy Ministry, the IDGC company and people from the Raspadskaya mine. We discussed building two 110 KW electric transmission lines and three substations, Raspadskaya-4, 5 and 6, as part of the project to enhance the mine's external power supply. The estimated cost of the project is 1.7 billion roubles. A relevant application has been filed with the Energy Ministry to adjust the 2010 budget; we will take it into account while adjusting the budget in autumn. But there is something I'd like to add. Since, with 52%, the government holds the controlling share in the IDGC grid company, with the remainder held by other companies and minority shareholders, we envisage a figure of 1.7 billion. This sum could be even smaller if other shareholders wish to participate directly in an additional share issue to preserve their stakes in the augmented share capital of the IDGC. Our goal will be met, and we will anticipate this sum when amending the budget.

Vladimir Putin: Good, thank you very much. Now I have a question for Mr Kozovoi. Are you satisfied with the way the energy issues are being resolved?

Gennady Kozovoi: Yes, because we have been working directly with the IDGC. But I wish they would start work sooner rather than later, because it will be impossible to build anything in winter, with the snow five meters thick. The designs are nearly complete, and we have prepared everything we had to do; part of the work has been prepaid, and an 18-km clearing made. I mean, I would not like to see this project be suspended over the winter, not after all the effort we've already put in. We initially planned to have it all completed in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Vladimir Putin: Agreed. This is an important point. Mr Sechin, I think this point is absolutely correct, and we should coordinate the work in such a way as to keep the project on schedule.

Igor Sechin: Yes Mr Putin, we'll do that.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. I would like to thank you all for this productive discussion and return to what we discussed at the beginning of the meeting. I would ask you to be less formal in your approach to resolving the social issues, those issues involving people who were injured and the families of the miners killed in the blasts. I very much hope that the mine will be restored in the shortest possible time, and that it will be up and running at full capacity again, operating to the levels required by the miners, the entire coal sector and the metals industry, which is closely related to it. We all have an interest in seeing that happen. I wish you all success. Thank you very much, and all the best.


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