The badly burned workers’ bodies, all aged 21 to 36 years, were pulled from the operation in Vietnam’s Quang Ninh province Monday after a five-hour search, according to the Associated Press. The mine, located in the Cam Pha district of the province about 190 km from Hanoi, is owned by Thong Nhat Coal Mine Company.
Company representative Le Xuan Nhoung told the news service that the workers were only about 15 minutes into their shift and he believes a gas pocket may have been to blame.
“The explosion was probably caused by a build-up of methane gas,” mine manager Do Thu Trang concurred in an interview with Indio-Asian News Service. Additionally, a safety rep said the explosion may have been caused by a short in the mine’s lighting system.
The worst mining accident ever in the country also occurred in the Quang Ninh province, when 16 workers were killed in 1999.
In an effort to meet demand, Vietnam is planning to up its coal production by 7% this year to 36.5 million tonnes, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, it exported some 18Mt last year, primarily to Japan and China, with record earnings of $658 million.