Mumbai: An underground explosion at the Mittal Steels' Lenin coal mine in Kazakhstan has left at least 18 dead and some 25 missing, the company said.
The blast at the mine in the central region of Karaganda, some 200 km (125 miles) south of the capital Astana, occurred at around 9.00 am.
The blast occurred at a depth of 500 meters and 324 miners working underground were able to scramble to safety, reports said.
The head of Mittal Steel in Kazakhstan said 43 miners were missing after the explosion. But a company statement issued in London said 18 people had died and 25 were missing after a methane explosion.
Lenin mine supplies coal to the company's Timertau factory, one of the world's biggest steel plants and the Central Asian country''s largest. The mining units can extract up to 12 million tonnes of coal annually.
The plant, however, continued to work as normal, a company source said, adding that the accident would not affect customers.
The Temirtau steel plant with its 55,000-strong workforce is the nation's single largest employer and accounts for about four per cent of Kazakhstan''s gross domestic product.
Mittal Steel paid around $400 million for the plant, formerly known as Karmet, in 1995. Mittal had planned additional investments of around $1.4 billion for modernising the site in 2007.
Temirtau has an annual capacity of 6-million tonnes of steel and supplies 40 per cent of its output to China.