German potash miners were suffocated by CO2 gas: authorities

03 October 2013 15:41  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--The three miners who died in an accident at a German potash mine this week were suffocated by carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, a prosecutor’s office in the country’s Thuringia state said on Thursday, citing preliminary autopsy results.

The accident on 1 October occurred during routine blasting operations at the Unterbreizbach mine of German potash major K+S. The CO2, which is bound in the mine’s potash salts, was set free during the blasting.

Rainer Gerling, K+S site manager at Unterbreizbach, said in a webcast media briefing that the blasting had set free unusually large CO2 amounts, quickly overwhelming the mine's ventilation system.

It remains unclear why the miners were underground when the blasting took place.

Hans-Jurgen Schmidt, a regional mining expert, told Germany's state media group ARD that the risk from the CO2 was well known in Thuringia’s potash industry, and that miners should not be underground during blasting operations.

Meanwhile, operations at Unterbreizbach remain suspended until further notice, Kassel-based K+S said.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
+1 713 525 2653

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