Uralkali provided updates on the current situation at Solikamsk-2 mine on Wednesday.

OAO Uralkali sees a high risk that its Solikamsk-2 potash mine east of Moscow will be completely flooded, forcing the world’s biggest producer of the fertilizer to abandon a site that makes up almost a fifth of its capacity, Bloomberg News reported.

Between Nov. 18, 2014, and Dec. 10, 2014, the sinkhole, which appeared to the east of the Solikamsk-2 production site, increased in size to 50 by 80 meters. As of Nov. 18, the size of the sinkhole was approximately 30 by 40 meters. 

Between Nov. 18 and Dec. 10, the brine inflow into Solikamsk-2 mine has varied. The average brine inflow during this period was more than 700 cubic meters per hour. 

In line with the accident liquidation plan, Uralkali continues ongoing comprehensive monitoring of the situation: water inflows are monitored through brine levels checks; the drilling of additional water monitoring wells is in progress; gas levels are monitored around the sinkhole and in the mine; the sinkhole is monitored from a distance using air drones; and seismologic control of the sinkhole area has been set up.

In coordination with the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological, and Nuclear Inspectorate (Rostechnadzor), Uralkali is implementing a number of measures to minimize consequences of the accident:

  • Uralkali employees with the assistance of mine rescue specialists are pumping brine from the inflow area in the eastern part of the minefield to the western part of the minefield to prevent flooding in the area adjacent to the shaft;
  • For the same purpose the company is building a brine diversion channel;
  • Uralkali is conducting works to strengthen the hydro-isolation of the cut-off walls between Solikamsk-1 and Solikamsk-2 minefields;
  • The company is backfilling the worked-out areas of the mine to reduce the rock mass deformation;
  • Uralkali is carrying out preliminary works for tamping channels of brine inflow into the mine.

Following the accident, Solikamsk-2 mine and plant employees (the total headcount is 1,266, including 771 employees of the mine) who are not involved in the accident liquidation are on a leave until Jan. 15, 2015, and are paid two-thirds of their average salary. The company is seeking to employ them at other Uralkali facilities.