The Irrawaddy

Five Die Following Coal Mine Explosion in Thit Chauk

MANDALAY—Five coal miners, including a Chinese technician, died of oxygen deprivation and four miners were injured when a coal mine collapsed near Thit Chauk village in Kalaywa Township, Sagaing Division, on Friday.

According to police, the mine, operated by Shwe Pauk Pauk Co., a unit of Tun Thwin Coal Mining Co., collapsed at around at 2 a.m. Friday due to a methane gas explosion.

“The rescue team found the bodies of the five miners this afternoon,” said the duty officer at Kalaywa Township Police Station.

The bodies were retrieved from the mine and were en route to Kalaywa, he said. The victims were identified as: Chinese technician Kang Guang Qiang; Ko Myo Naing Win, Ko Nyan Phyo Oo and Ko Htein Lin from Yamethin Township; and Ko Zin Ko Oo from Magwe.

“Four people were injured trying to save the victims after the explosion occurred. They are being treated at Kalaywa General Hospital for minor injuries,” the police officer said.

Rescuers rushed to the mine in the morning after receiving word of the explosion in an effort to save the trapped miners, but the lack of oxygen in the mineshaft due to the methane gas blast proved fatal to the five, police told The Irrawaddy.

“We didn’t receive news of the collapse until the morning, so the rescue effort was slightly delayed. But the lack of oxygen in the tunnel due to the gas explosion killed the trapped miners,” the duty officer said.

Authorities from Tun Thwin Coal Mining told The Irrawaddy that the company was cooperating with local authorities to investigate the incident and to provide for the injured and the dead miners’ families.

“What I know initially from my employees is that the oxygen pipeline ruptured, causing the miners inside the tunnel to die from a lack of oxygen, not [directly] from the explosion or the collapse of the tunnel,” U Maung Maung Aung, the manager of Tun Thwin Coal Mining Co., told The Irrawaddy.

“We will cooperate with the local authorities to investigate the incident to ensure safety is improved in the future,” he added.

About six companies operate about 22 coal mines in the Thit Chauk Village area, including Htoo Mining Co. and Max Myanmar Mining Co. Most of the coal mined in this area is transported to cement factories in the Mandalay and Kyaukse regions.

Mine collapses and related fatalities are nothing new to the Thit Chauk region, where mining began in 1956 under the Ministry of Mining. In the 1990s, coal mining in the area declined drastically, nearly dying out completely. Starting in 2005, however, the ministry began granting operating licenses to private companies and coal mining in the region picked up again.

In 2012, mines in the Thit Chauk region produced about 87,000 metric tons of coal, according to ministry records.