ALMATY (Reuters) -At least 32 people have died and 14 remain missing after a mine fire in Kazakhstan, the Ministry for Emergency Situations said on Saturday.
Operator ArcelorMittal Temirtau, the local unit of Luxembourg-based steelmaker ArcelorMittal, said 206 of 252 people at the Kostenko mine had been evacuated after what appeared to be a methane blast.
It said 18 people had sought medical attention.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who expressed condolences to the victims’ families and declared a national day of mourning on Oct. 29, ordered his cabinet to stop investment cooperation with ArcelorMittal Temirtau.
The company said it had suspended operation of coal unit mines for 24 hours for gas protection checks.The government and company also confirmed they were working to finalise a deal to nationalise the company, which operates the country’s biggest steel mill.
“ArcelorMittal can also confirm, as communicated earlier today by the government of Kazakhstan, that the two parties have been in discussions concerning the future of ArcelorMittal Temirtau and recently signed a preliminary agreement for a transaction that will transfer ownership to the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the miner said.
“ArcelorMittal is committed to completing this transaction as soon as possible in order to minimise disruption to the greatest extent possible.”
Last month First Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar told reporters that Kazakhstan was in talks with potential investors who could take over the mill.
He said the cabinet was unhappy with ArcelorMittal’s failure to meet its investment obligations, upgrade equipment and ensure worker safety after a series of deadly accidents.
(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by William Mallard and Jason Neely)