Denmark's Dong Energy to look into Russian mine conditions

26th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Danish energy group Dong Energy said Sunday it was seeking explanations from its Russian coal provider SUEK after a Danish newspaper reported on atrocious working conditions in its mines.

The Ekstra Bladet daily reported Sunday that labourers in SUEK's Siberian mines were working for low wages in unsafe and sometimes life-threatening conditions.

"This is very worrying information and we immediately demanded the Russian mining company provide a report on the situation that Ekstra Bladet reported," Louise Munter, Dong Energy's director for social responsibility, said in a statement.

"If this information is true, this is completely unacceptable," she added.

Dong Energy, majority owned by the Danish state and the country's leading energy group, imports a large part of its coal from Russia, where SUEK is the leading provider.

Ekstra Bladet said that in a number of SUEK mines in Siberia that it visited, "poor miners die and are handicapped in order to extract coal that public company Dong uses to supply Danes with heating and electricity."

The newspaper reported that Russian miners to whom it had spoken, earning no more than 30,000 rubles (985 dollars/750 euros) per month, said safety regulations were far from being respected, violating ethical rules that Dong is meant to apply.

Deadly mine accidents are relatively common in Russia because of ageing infrastructure and violations of safety requirements.

"We are taking this affair very seriously. The safety of our employees is essential to us, both internally and with our providers," said Dong boss Niels Bergh-Hansen.

Denmark relies heavily on fossil fuels including coal to provide the majority of the energy for its electricity and heating.

© 2010 AFP

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