May 3 (UPI) — At least two miners died and up to 80 others were trapped Wednesday after an explosion at a coal mine, local officials said.
Officials from the northern Iranian province of Golestan said there were 500 miners employed at the Azadshahr coal mine at the time of the incidence. According to the semiofficial Fars News Agency, at least two miners are dead, “scores” have been injured and more than 80 others are trapped.
Emergency management officials said about two dozen first responders entered the mine on a search and rescue mission. The blast was described in various Iranian media outlets as “huge” and “highly serious.”
A profile of the Iranian mining industry from the U.S. Geological Survey said most of the mining operations in Iran are controlled by private companies, although the government controls many of the larger capacity mining operations, especially metals and coal.
As of 2012, the last full year covered on the USGS report, Iran produced about 1.3 million tons of coal, down considerably from previous years.
Coal as a power source is dwindling as renewable energy resources and cleaner-burning natural gas take up a larger share of national energy grids. Isolated by its terrain, northern Iranian provinces have collaborated with its Caspian Sea neighbors on electricity.
Iran is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and holds considerable oil and gas reserves. Coal holds a lower presence in the Iranian energy profile.