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Meeting on coal industry in Kuzbass

December 2, 2021, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin held a meeting, via videoconference, on the situation in the coal industry in Kuzbass.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon.

As we all know very well, last week – on November 25 – a tragedy, a big disaster, happened in the Kemerovo Region. An accident at the Listvyazhnaya mine killed miners and rescuers. This is a tragedy and pain shared by Kuzbass and the entire country, all of Russia.

I would like to once again offer my condolences and words of support to the victims’ families and friends. I wish a speedy recovery to all the injured.

All these days we stayed in close contact with the region’s governor, Sergei Tsivilev, who heads the emergency response centre. Regular updates also come from the Emergencies Ministry leadership.

As you know, senior officials of the Emergencies Ministry and Rostekhnadzor travelled to the region immediately, and, of course, federal agencies received instructions to provide help and assistance to the families of those killed and injured.

We all must keep a close eye on the situation.

Today I would like to ask you to report on what has already been done and what must be done by the Government and other authorities. Above all, of course, we are talking about medical assistance for the injured: how many are already out of the hospital and how many remain there, are there enough medicines and medical equipment, is any additional assistance required from federal medical centres? I know that, according to preliminary reports, nothing seems to be needed, but, nevertheless, I would like you to report on this additionally.

I would like to ask the Government and local authorities to take care of everyone who had to face this disaster, families and friends of the victims, and to carefully consider every case. Personal and family situations may differ – I know this very well from the past tragic events – we cannot be guided solely by instructions on paper here.

During our meeting, I expect to hear a report on how federal payments are being made to families who have lost their loved ones, as well as to the injured, what has been done and is being done in the region.

Of course, we must investigate all the causes and circumstances of the accident. The relevant instructions have been given to the General Prosecutor’s Office. I would like to hear how they are being implemented today.

As reported, according to the preliminary data, the accident happened due to an entire range of safety violations. The region’s administration has already issued instructions to inspect all the mines in the region and analyse their fire safety condition, including the availability and serviceability of sensors showing methane concentration in the air.

It is well known that miners’ work involves higher risk. At the same time, it is unacceptable to abuse and exploit the courage of people who descend into mines. Their lives and health must be protected, and this is the personal responsibility of everyone who is involved in organising extraction: heads of enterprises, representatives of oversight and supervisory bodies, and owners.

Those who, in pursuit of profit or for some other reason, ignore, neglect the safety of people and expose them to mortal danger, must be punished according to the law, harshly, and held responsible for compliance with safety rules in mines and at all facilities of the mining industry, as well as for the proper condition of equipment and personal rescue equipment.

Today we will examine the implementation of the decisions made 11 years ago after the gravest accident, the tragedy at the Raspadskaya mine. Back then, we talked about systemic work to ensure safety at coal-mining enterprises, and today we will analyse these issues. However, it is clear that additional steps are needed here, including economic ones.

Of course, after these decisions were made back in 2010, I was updated on how the instructions were implemented. We must look at how they have been implemented, what has been done and how. Let us get down to this.


Vladimir Putin: Here is what I would like to say. After all, safety is tied to the work compensation scheme. I have returned to this issue several times today. In 2010, we agreed that the semi-fixed pay had to account for at least 70 percent of the wages. We also agreed to clearly define what is included in these 70 percent.

I would like to remind you about the federal industrial agreement on the coal industry for 2019–2021. It has been mentioned today. Clause 3.2.18 states, “Employers shall ensure that the semi-fixed pay amounts to at least 70 percent of the miners’ wages.” And it may seem fine but it only seems so. If we look at the breakdown, what makes up this semi-fixed pay?

According to labour law, the semi-fixed pay may also include payment based on piece rates such as overtime piecework. What does it mean? It means that in reality, the miners’ compensation depends on the amount of coal they produce. The semi-fixed pay also includes extra pay above the piece rates and monthly wages for working in hazardous conditions, which is very important. Hazard pay is very important. Those who wrote this knew very well what it means.

As a result, these terms create economic stimuli for the miners to disregard safety requirements – and they cannot be blamed for that. They take risks because they need to provide for their families. And our job is to create conditions in which they would not have to take risks. That was the point of our decisions back in 2010.

Therefore, obviously, it is necessary to clarify what is included in the semi-fixed component of the miners’ wages and exclude any pay that depends on productivity. This is what must be done. It is no time to consider the owners’ profits, or exports, or any other kind of profit. We must think about safety and people’s lives. They must be at the centre of our decisions.

Of course, liability for safety violations must be toughened. This is absolutely obvious. And it is important to expand the influence of trade unions. There is nothing to fear here.

The punishment for violations currently includes administrative penalties but there is no administrative suspension as a punishment. I remember from our discussion in 2010 that the fear was that trade unions would suspend operations here and there. They will not do that. Miners need to work and earn a living. Why would the trade unions suspend operations at the slightest opportunity? They will not.

Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the liability for violating gas drainage requirements and specify administrative penalties. This measure is absolutely necessary.

Of course, we should go back. I recall the discussions about the owners’ financial responsibility. I realise what this is about, no one wants to undermine the foundations of business and to downsize the coal industry’s operations. But we certainly have to think about this, and I agree with the trade union leader here. We have to resume this discussion in a calm and cautious manner, without any emotions linked with the current developments and today’s tragedy; but we need to analyse all this painstakingly.

The same must be done with regard to audits of the use of mineral deposits. I have just said that I want to discuss this matter once again. There is no desire to increase administrative barriers, and we are reducing them, as well as opportunities for bribery. Of course, it is necessary to fight this evil. But it is necessary to maintain safety, too. We need to monitor mining operations, design, technological and production documents and records, and their compliance with specific standards. We must do this, no matter what, and it would be better if independent agencies, not linked with owners, conducted such work. By the way, it would be possible to select audit companies together with the trade unions.

The Minister spoke earlier about a programme for shutting down mines. We need to address this matter very cautiously. Indeed, the Minister said that this applied to a small number of enterprises; however, this also means jobs. But it goes without saying that we will have to deal with this matter at facilities with hazardous working conditions where this danger is too great for some other reasons, including technological or some other factors. Of course, life is life.

In this connection, I would like to raise the issue of liquidation funds. We stipulate the creation of liquidation funds for high-risk enterprises, and we can think about creating such funds for mines, too. I would like to ask you to consider this and to submit appropriate proposals during preparations for the second reading of the relevant bill, which is currently being considered, and to extend them to coal mines and open-cast mines.

Now, I would like to say a few words about mining oversight and dealing with the safety of hazardous production facilities and projects. I cannot help but agree that, of course, the wage levels of the relevant categories of employees of Rostekhnadzor [Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Supervision], do not match the level of their responsibility while fulfilling their official duties. Therefore, I am asking you to stipulate and pass the relevant decisions envisaging financial and other support for state inspectors. Such support should not be lower than the average wages of mine administration officials. I am asking the Government to submit proposals on this score, and the Presidential Executive Office should draft an instruction together with the concerned agencies.

I wish you all the best. Thank you.

December 2, 2021, The Kremlin, Moscow