UPDATE 1-Blast injures two copper miners in Zambia

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LUSAKA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - A blast at the Mufulira copper mine in Zambia left two mineworkers unconscious and with serious burns, a government official said on Tuesday.

Mopani Copper Mines (MCM), a unit of Swiss firm Glencore International AG [GLEN.UL] and Canada's First Quantum Minerals FM.TO, remained open and operational after the incident.

MCM operates the Mufulira and Nkana mines and the Mufulira Smelter.

“Two miners were badly injured and their chances of survival are very slim because their bodies were burned like charcoal,” Dayford Muulwa, the district commissioner for Mufulira, told Reuters by telephone.

The two miners were in intensive care at the local hospital.

Muulwa said the cause of the accident was unknown. The mine has seen a number of accidents in the past, with the worst disaster in the 1970s killing dozens of mineworkers.

Muulwa said the rate of accidents at Mopani was ‘alarming’ and said management needed to improve safety standards

“This accident comes barely a few days after an incident where a mine worker was suffocated by gas and he is also still in hospital and the contamination of water by the same company,” he said.

MCM chief services officer Passmore Hamukoma could not immediately comment on the accident.

Mine accidents have been common in Zambia, where 50 workers died in 2005 after a blast at Chinese owned explosives manufacturing firm, BGGRIM.

Reporting By Shapi Shacinda; editing by Chris Johnson