Tayfun Görgün, president of the DEV MADEN-SEN (Turkey Revolutionary Mine Search and Processing Workers) Trade Union, believes that there are three clear areas of negligence in the latest mining accident in Balıkesir, western Turkey.
On Tuesday, 23 February, thirteen miners were killed and eighteen injured in a gas explosion in the Dursunbey mine in the province of Balıkesir.
Speaking with bianet, Görgün listed the following problems:
Air ventilation insufficient: A gas explosion only happens if enough gas has been allowed to accumulate. This means that the ventilation system either did not work at all or only in an insufficient manner.
Early warning system deficient: When gas accumulates, the early warning system normally needs to be triggered. Either there was no such system or it did not work. Normally, when the gas level rises, there are several warnings. The excuse that a warning came eight minutes prior to the explosion is unsatisfactory. It should have warned at a much earlier stage.
Lack of auditing: This is the second large accident of the Şentaş Mining Company. In 2006, 17 people died. The mine was closed down and only later opened again. This shows us that there has not been enough auditing, or that problems found during auditing have not been remedied. The Prime Minister says that there was an audit at the mine 20 days ago. This shows that either the audit was only cursory or the faults were not dealt with.
Görgün added that these problems were not confined to the Dursunbey mine but an indication of major problems in the provision of work safety.
State knows the problems: In 2005, the Ministry of Labour's Work Review Committee found problems in mines and reported them. However, there have been no preventative measures.
Death for profits: The managers are covering up their faults by speaking of an "exemplary business". If that were the case, only someone laying a bomb in the mine could have caused such an explosion. This was not an unpredictable acident, it was negligence. The employers wanted to maximise profits and minimise expenditure, so they scrimped on safety. Activity in the mine should have been forbidden until a suitable safety system was installed.
Auditing carried out in Ankara: Recently the Ministry of Labour has carried out the audits not on site, but in Ankara, the capital. A person representing the employers is called and problems are discussed on paper. The industry is being protected at the cost of people's lives. Also, there are not only deaths; in this accident, 18 workers were injured. Work-related illnesses are not ascertained at all.
Lack of technical personnel: The number of technical inspectors is ridiculously low. There need to be hundreds of engineers and technical employees in order to control the ventilation and warning systems and to check fortifications against mine collapse or flooding of mines. Currently inspectors mostly concern themselves with whether social security contributions are being paid for workers. (TK/AG)
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