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Severstal coal unit replacing gas safety systems at shafts after Severnaya blast

, the coal-mining unitof Russian steel group PAO Severstal,said July 26 that it has started equipping its shafts with modern gas analyzer systems,after a report from the Russian industrial safety watchdog blamed methane leaksfor causing an explosion at the Severnayamine in Russia that killed 36 miners and rescue workers in February.

Safetyregulator Rostekhnadzor said July 22 the gas explosion may have been sparked by"substandard" insulation or faulty electrical cables, or an accumulationof gas at the longwall.

Russianmedia at the time speculated that the gas monitoring systems in the shaft were faulty,or had been deliberately blocked off by workers keen to avoid safety stoppages tomeet bonus-yielding production quotas.

In itsstatement, Severstal said it would study all of Rostekhnadzor's findings.

Followingthe findings, Vorkutaugol said it agreed to replace its older gas monitoring systemwith the new Mikon-3 system at all its shafts.

The Mikon-3system is manufactured by Russian company Ingortekh.

In comparisonto the Mikon-1R, the system currently in use in Vorkutaugol's shafts, the Mikon-3features "an expanded list of controlled variables," and more points wheregas sensors can be attached, according to the statement. The proposed new systemwill allow operators on the surface to monitor gas conditions in the shaft, whichcould save lives, said Maxim Kalaitanov, deputy head of mine safety at Vorkutaugol.

"Previously,we measured the speed of air flow in mines, the content of methane and carbon monoxide.Now at our disposal will also be indicators of dust, temperature, humidity, concentrationof oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, as well as a centralized watercontrol system," he was quoted as saying.

An at a depth of 780 metersripped through the Severnaya mine Feb. 25. Follow-up explosions and fires continuedfor days afterwards. Thirty-one miners and five rescue workers died in the tragedy,prompting Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to order an into coal mine safety in thecountry.