Friday, 11 April 2014

Seven workers killed by explosion at Ukrainian coal mine.

Seven workers have been killed and an eighth is being treated in hospital after an explosion at the Skochinsky Coal Mine at Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The explosion occurred when the miners hit a pocket of methane gas early in the morning, resulting in an explosive outburst. 

Workers at the end of a shift at the Skochinsky Coal Mine earlier this month. Oleg Nikishin.

Coal is formed when buried organic material, principally wood, in heated and pressurized, forcing off hydrogen and oxygen (i.e. water) and leaving more-or-less pure carbon. Methane is formed by the decay of organic material within the coal. There is typically little pore-space within coal, but the methane can be trapped in a liquid form under pressure. Some countries have started to extract this gas as a fuel in its own right. When this pressure is released suddenly, as by mining activity, then the methane turns back to a gas, expanding rapidly causing, an explosion. This is a bit like the pressure being released on a carbonated drink; the term 'explosion' does not necessarily imply fire in this context, although as methane is flammable this is quite likely.

The approximate location of the Skochinsky Coal Mine. Google Maps.

The Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan has accused the mine's operators, Donetsk Coal Power Company, of neglecting basic safety, and ordered an investigation by the Donetsk Oblast Prosecutor General.

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