Translated from Turkish by Translators for justice
To Public Opinion,
A tragedy took place in Turkey causing the demise of hundreds of coal mine workers and 5 mining engineers. This grave incident took place at the coal mine in Manisa province Soma, Eynez district, which belongs to the Soma Coal Corporation, the permit rights of which belong to Turkish Coal Establishments.
As the people of Turkey, our suffering is indescribable. We salute all who have lost their lives in this disastrous accident and we offer our condolences to their families, to their beloved ones and to our country and we wish the speed recovery of workers who have survived.
Findings of the experts of the Association of Mining Engineers during the investigation of the incident is reported below.
-The work at the abovementioned coal mine is carried out via 3 labor shifts.
-There are 800 workers in each labor shift and a total of 3000 laborers working in the mine.
-There were 787 laborers working inside the mine during the 13.05.2014 08:00/16:00 labor shift when the accident took place.
-Production is carried out by demolition and longwall mining.
-The fire that triggered this catastrophe started at the coal mine vent hole entrance.
-Our board has determined that the explosion of a transformer which has been declared to the public as the reason of the fire cannot be the true cause of this accident. The majority of the casualties were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning which in turn is caused by coal oxidation.
-The mine is ventilated mechanically.
-There has been a major lack of organization regarding the rescue operations after the catastrophe. Our association has intervened and the necessary arrangements have been made.
-There was no efficient supervision of the coal mine by the employer corporation, the licensee and the relevant state institutions, resulting in the lack of required results.
-This catastrophe has been yet another proof of the failure of the Occupational Safety and Health Law Number 6331 to prevent the deaths of laborers and occupational illnesses. Our colleagues have made sure that all precautions were taken and the mine operated according to the law. The inspection done by the inspectors of Work and Social Security Ministry Work Inspection Board also reveals this fact.
-The real cause of the lack application of scientific approaches related to mining engineering of mining sites in Turkey is improper government policy. In 2010, our board prepared the report “Industrial Accidents in Mining”, which includes the findings about the Soma Reservoir. In this report, it was pointed out that there could be serious accidents in the Soma mining region.
-However, the real reason behind the deaths of the miners is not the inadequacy of the law but the neoliberal government policies. Since the 1980s, there have been numerous privatizations, subcontractings and rentals, which have diminished public mining, resulting in the loss of knowledge and experience gained throughout the years. Instead of these institutions with adequate knowledge and experience, inexperienced persons and corporations with poor technical background have taken over management of the mines. On top of this, poor state inspection of these mines has resulted in the increase of occupational deaths. Without considering any public benefit, production was forced to its edge with the desire of higher profits. With this fact came longer work hours, unhealthy working and sheltering environments and worsened socio-economic states of the workers, all of which prepared the conditions that caused this catastrophe. Karadon, Kozlu, Elbistan and lastly Soma catastrophes have all shown that workers’ lives cannot be left to the mercy of the market.
-The statements made by the government officers about how these catastrophes are not surprising and are expectable for this line of work, while the fire in the mine is still going on and the rescue attempts are not yet concluded clearly show that they have opposed the scientific methods and techniques, further implying that they should resign immediately according to the responsibilities of the ruling government.
We commemorate all miners and colleagues who have lost their lives in this catastrophe with respect and we offer our condolences to their loved ones and to all of the mining workers.
Chamber of Mining Engineers of Turkey (TMMOB)