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(RFE/RL) September 29, 2006 -- Reports from central Kazakhstan say more coal miners went on strike today in the town of Shakhtinsk.

The Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency quotes union leaders as saying the protest movement has expanded to an eighth coal mine.

All mines affected by the strike belong to Mittal Steel Temirtau. Mittal Steel Temirtau is a subsidiary of Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel producer.

The protesters are demanding higher wages and better working conditions.

On September 20, an underground methane explosion killed 41 people and wounded another six at a mine operated by Mittal Steel Temirtau.

Addressing reporters in Shakhtinsk today, Kazakh Emergency Sitautions Minister Shalbai Kulmakhanov blamed violations of safety rules for the accident.

He said miners repairing one of the shafts had switched off the ventilation system, thus allowing the gas to accumulate in the mine. The blast occurred when electricity was restored in the shaft.

(Interfax-Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan Today)
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