Some 180 miners were safely brought to the surface soon after the explosion in the mine in Novokuznetsk, some 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) east of Moscow, Irina Andrianova, spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry, said in televised comments. She said four of those brought to the surface were injured and officials were searching for 21 miners still missing.
Valery Korchagin, an official with the ministry's regional branch, said 217 people had been working in the Yubileinaya mine at the time of the blast; 28 of them were in the immediate vicinity of the blast and the rest were in other parts of the mine.
An explosion at another mine in the region in March killed 110 people. That was the deadliest accident in more than 60 years in Russia's mines, many of which fell into disrepair when government subsidies dried up after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Both accidents occurred at mines operated by Yuzhkuzbassugol, a subsidiary of coal and steel producer Evraz SA, and Russian industrial safety officials said Thursday that the company's license may be revoked.