13 Dec 2008

Fatal explosion at Russian mine

7:00 am on 13 December 2008

At least nine people have been killed in an explosion at a mine in north-west Russia.

Officials say three other people are still missing following the blast at the mine near Kirovsk, in the Murmansk region.

Workers were conducting controlled explosions at the mine when the blast occurred, according to reports.

The mine is said to be owned by OAO Apatit, a major Russian company that produces apatite, a mineral commonly used in fertiliser.

"A large-scale blast was being prepared at the mine for which 55 tonnes of explosives had been laid," a source at the emergency situations ministry told Interfax news agency.

The source also said 12 people had died and four were injured, although a spokeswoman for the ministry in Murmansk put the death toll at nine.

Many of Russia's mines have poor safety standards and have not been updated since the fall of communism.