Kazakhstan Suspends Investment Cooperation with ArcelorMittal Following Mine Fire

ASTANA – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev instructed the government to cease investment cooperation with ArcelorMittal Temirtau mining company following the fire at the Kostenko mine on Oct. 28 that killed at least 21 people, reported the Akorda press service.

The fire at the Kostenko mine occurred just two months after a similar fire at the Kazakhstanskaya mine in August which killed five people. This is just the latest in a series of accidents at mines owned by Arcelor Mittal Temirtau. Photo credit: Karagandy Region Akimat

Tokayev expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the mine fire. He instructed the government to provide all required assistance to the families.

The government commission to investigate the causes of the accident at the mine was created, headed by Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov. The government has reached a preliminary agreement with the shareholders of ArcelorMittal Temirtau and is finalizing the transfer of ownership deal in favor of Kazakhstan.

At the time of the accident, 252 people were inside the mine. As of 12 p.m., 208 out of 252 people were evacuated, and 18 of them sought medical help. The search for 23 miners continues. 

“A comprehensive investigation will be conducted into the causes of an accident due to a fire at the mine. At the same time, measures will be taken to assess the damage caused and provide priority assistance to the injured and families of the victims,” reads the statement of the Prime Minister’s office. 

Minister of Emergency Situations Syrym Sharipkhanov went to the site. An emergency response plan has been put in place. 

A team of 50 people and eight units of equipment from the professional paramilitary emergency rescue service, along with 22 personnel from the ministry, are involved in search and rescue operations, reported the ministry’s press service.

According to Nikita Shatalov, deputy of Mazhilis, a lower chamber of the Kazakh Parliament, ArcelorMittal Temirtau did not draw any conclusions from a series of previous accidents.

“A little over two months have passed since the tragedy at the Kazakhstanskaya mine. The owner has not learned any lessons from the incident. Safety precautions were not strengthened and warning systems were not audited. People continued to die. Mittal and his subordinates do not care what happens to our fellow citizens,” wrote Shatalov on Telegram.

The decision of Tokayev to suspend cooperation with the company is the “only correct decision,” wrote Shatalov.   

“All those who insisted on the change of ownership were accused of populism. Obviously, this is not a simple process. Mittal was legally protected. But the head of state made the only correct decision in the current situation,” he added.

Mazhilis deputy Erlan Sairov echoed his views on Facebook, calling ArcelorMittal Temirtau a “symbol of irresponsibility and inhumanity.”

“Despite dozens of deaths, the company still has not taken effective measures to reduce mortality at the enterprises, which is extremely negative about the management of the corporation and confirms its indifference to the people of Kazakhstan,” said Sairov.

Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor General Office launched a pre-trial investigation on charges of the violation of safety rules during mining or construction work, per Article 277 of the Criminal Code. An interdepartmental investigative and operational group has been created led by special prosecutors, which includes most experienced law enforcement officers and Emergency Situations Ministry specialists.

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