MANDALAY — Authorities on Sunday called off rescue operations at a coal mine in Magwe Region’s Saw Township where four men believed to have survived an explosion on Sunday are now believed dead from a lack of oxygen.
The explosion, blamed on a methane gas reaction, instantly killed four miners and injured another four who were taken to the township general hospital for care.
U San Win, head of the Saw Township Red Cross Society, which joined the rescue team, said four other miners who survived the explosion but were trapped inside the 700-foot-deep shaft by the blast were now believed dead as well.
He said the decision to end the rescue operation was made by local authorities and an inspection team from the Ministry of Mining that arrived in the area on Sunday.
“A team went down and came back with no sign of survivors. The team said the tunnel had collapsed and was blocked after 650 feet and that it was full of gas odor and that a smell seemed to be coming from the bodies of the four trapped miners,” said U San Win.
The trapped miners were U Nyi Nyi, 32, from Kone Zaung Village in Nga Phae Township; U Kyaw Min Tun, 30, from Ohnpin Village in Pinlaebu Township; U Tun Maung, 30, from Laythar Village in Wuntho Township; and U Aung Aung, 30, from Padan Village in Nga Phae Township.
“There is also a high risk that the mine will collapse at any time, so the local authorities and the officials from the Ministry of Mining who came from Naypyitaw decided to end the rescue,” said U San Win.
The coal mine, located in Saw Township’s Kyauk Myaung Village, is operated by the Htun Yaza Coal Mining company, which joined local authorities in providing some compensation to the affected families. Company manager U Min Min Oo is being sued for the deaths of the miners and for neglecting the mine’s own safety protocols.
The inspection team is investigating the incident to decide whether the coal mine will be allowed to resume operations.
“The officials from the Ministry of Mining, government officials, police and the local administration office are investigating the incident and will check the safety of the mine and decide whether the company should continue with that coal mine,” said U Htin Lin, a lawmaker in the Magwe Region Parliament.
“If the inspection team finds that the coal mine is unsafe to continue, it will have to be closed forever. On the other hand, the mining company can also receive a ban or fine under the mining law if the team finds that the company is not safe for its miners,” he added.
A coal mine in Magwe Region’s Minbu Township was shut down after an explosion there killed eight people in November.
About 40 coal mines are operating across Magwe, most of them in Gangaw, Minbu, Minhla, Pauk and Saw townships.