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Bodies of Kazakh Rescue Workers Swallowed by Sinkhole Still Missing After Seven Weeks

The search for rescuers who fell into a sinkhole at a mine owned by JSC Maikainzoloto may resume in ten to fourteen days, it has been announced by Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Industrial Safety of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Musa Tanabaev. "Work on expansion and deepening" must be completed, Tanabaev said, and only then can a "direct search for the missing begin." The wife of Aidos Shaimerden, one of the missing rescue workers, has repeatedly asked local authorities to involve foreign specialists in the search. The Ministry of Emergency Situations has responded that this is not required yet. In the early hours of January 4th, near the Maikainsky mine in the Pavlodar Region, a bus carrying three rescue workers and a driver fell into a sinkhole. Shortly before the incident, they had received an emergency call about smoke in the area of the mine and proceeded to the site. Preliminary measurements of the sinkhole put the width of the collapse at 500 meters, with a depth of 150 meters. At noon of the same day, the bodies of two rescue workers who fell into the breach were found in the debris at a depth equal to that of a 25-story building. They were 53-year-old Oleg Tyshkevich, and 24-year-old Berdikan Sarkyt. The rescue operation was, however, complicated by the fact there could be more collapses at the edge of the newly formed pit. On January 5th, the police began an investigation into the tragedy. According to details of the special investigation, dust at the site of the sinkhole was mistaken for smoke, and at 01:14 a bus with first responders went to the location of a possible fire. The director of the mine followed them by car. When he saw the bus fall, he managed to slow down and report what had happened - thus preventing the death of four firefighters who were following. During the ensuing search, a tracking device showed that the bus was buried at a depth of about five meters from the bottom of the funnel. Two days later, rescuers with a surveyor descended to the bottom of the breach and examined it for the first time. On January 18th, heavy equipment completed the laying of a side ramp and lowered a small excavator down to the center of the sinkhole on a safety cable. During the initial excavation, parts of the bus, an oxygen cylinder, breathing apparatus and a rescue worker's bag were located. Later, a helmet, parts of the interior of the bus, and a first responder's hand-held radio were discovered. On January 26th, a special commission found that the collapse of rock mass into the abandoned mine was caused by unsatisfactory production management, there having been no proper oversight of the breaches formed as a result of the company's activities. An investigation was launched for "violation of safety rules during mining or construction works," and more than 40 employees and the management of the LLP were questioned, whilst documents and video...

Government Buys ArcelorMittal Termirtau for $286 Million

The Minister of Industry and Construction of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kanat Sharlapayev, announced at a briefing that after eleven rounds of negotiations, the purchase of Arcelor Mittal Temirtau has been completed. Divulging the details of the deal, Sharlapayev stated that “$286 million is the cost of two fully functioning enterprises. In addition, ArcelorMittal will not make any claims against the Government of Kazakhstan. The agreement was reached within the legal framework, in full compliance with international law.” Against a backdrop of ongoing incidents at ArcelorMittal Temirtau JSC, in August of this year, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pointed out serious violations by the company. The Head of State stated that consequences for the enterprise to remain in the Kazakh market were not excluded for AMT. At the time this statement was made, the government was already negotiating with the owners of ArcelorMittal Temirtau on the possible withdrawal of the company from the metallurgical plant. These talks began after the tragic accident that occurred on November 3rd 2022 at the Lenin Mine, a subsidiary of AMT. As a result of these intensive negotiations, on December 9th 2022, a “Standstill Agreement” was signed, which allowed the authorities to evaluate and audit the enterprise. During the negotiations, ArcelorMittal requested $3.5 billion, which did not correspond to the calculations of international consultants. “This became one of the main reasons for the protracted negotiation process,” Sharlapayev said. “Our goal was to purchase the plant at a fair price without incurring costly and protracted international litigation. The urgency and acceleration of the negotiations were also dictated by the need to prevent the shutdown of the enterprise. The agreement between the Government of Kazakhstan and ArcelorMittal can be called a mega-deal, which is of exceptional importance to our country. We have avoided a lot of risks faced by the governments of other countries,” the minister stressed. Sharlapayev also announced three key elements of the deal: - The state has reduced the value of assets from $3.5 billion to $286 million; - Not a single tenge was spent from the state budget on the implementation of the transaction; - The new investor undertakes an obligation to the parent company, ArcelorMittal, to repay a short-term loan of $250 million and a long-term loan of $450 million over four years.

Kazakhstan Holds National Day of Mourning for Miners Killed in Fire

Kazakhstan held a National Day of Mourning on October 29th for more than 40 people killed in a coal mine fire in the central Qaraghandy region, the deadliest such accident in the country’s post-Soviet history. The death toll has now risen to 45, with the recovery of two additional bodies, rescue official Gennady Silinsky said. Some 252 people were underground at the Kostenko mine when the fire struck in the early hours of October 28th, said operating company, ArcelorMittal, the world’s second-largest steel producer. Authorities said an evacuation had been ordered after the fire broke out, but that an explosion occurred before many workers could reach safety. The blast could be felt more than two kilometers away, Silinsky told a news briefing. On October 28th, the Government of Kazakhstan confirmed the nationalization of the local branch of the steel giant, ArcelorMittal Temirtau, which operates the country’s largest steel plants and several coal and ore mines. In a statement, Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov said that the government had reached a preliminary agreement with the company's shareholders, and was now in the process of “formalizing” the nationalization. ArcelorMittal confirmed it had signed a “preliminary agreement for a transaction that will transfer ownership to the Republic of Kazakhstan”. The company said it "will commit to finalizing this transaction as soon as possible”. The Office of Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor-General announced a probe into potential safety violations at the Kostenko mine. It was the second deadly incident at an ArcelorMittal site in Kazakhstan this year, after five miners were killed in an accident at a mine in the same region in August. ArcelorMittal's operations in the resource-rich Central Asian country have regularly been accused by authorities of failing to respect safety and environmental regulations.

Scores Dead After Fire at Mine Operated by ArcelorMittal

At least 21 people were killed when a fire broke out at a mine in Kazakhstan operated by the global steel giant ArcelorMittal on October 28th, prompting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to order an "end to investment cooperation" with the company, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. A local unit of the company, ArcelorMittal Temirtau, said in a statement that 252 people were underground at the Kostenko mine in the central Qaraghandy region when the fire struck. It said 208 miners had been evacuated, with 18 seeking medical help, while 23 people had not been accounted for. There was no immediate comment about the cause of the incident. This was the second deadly event at an ArcelorMittal site in Kazakhstan this year, after five miners were killed at a mine in the same region in August. Tokayev, who expressed condolences to the victims' families, said "the government has ordered an end to investment cooperation with ArcelorMittal”. The president said an investigative commission will be set up to determine the cause of the blaze. ArcelorMittal operates around a dozen mines in Kazakhstan. The company's operations in the resource-rich Central Asian country have regularly been accused by authorities of failing to respect safety and environmental regulations. Following the incident in August at an ArcelorMittal coal mine, Tokayev denounced the "systemic character" of accidents involving the company that he said has left more than a hundred people dead in Kazakhstan since 2006. In December 2022, Astana threatened to ban ArcelorMittal from operating in the country after a worker died in what the company labeled an accident at its factory in Temirtau.

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