The accident at Kozlu coal mine in Zonguldak Province on the Black Sea belonging to state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprise (TTK) was caused by a sudden methane gas leak and explosion. Following long rescue efforts, the bodies of dead miners were recovered. All of the workers killed were union members. The Zonguldak Chief Public Prosecutor’s office is conducting an investigation into the local management’s negligence in failing to avoid the accident.
Dangerous methane gas leaks and explosions in coal mining are avoidable through safe detection techniques and technology, strengthened by strong trade union presence and mature systems of industrial relations.
The accident happened in a pit operated by a subcontractor company, called Star, in Zonguldak, Turkey’s main coal mining region. Recent audit reports in the months prior to the accident show numerous inadequacies of the company’s safety measures.
Genel Maden-Is organizes mine workers in Zonguldak region. Over the last couple of years, Genel Maden-Is began organizing miners employed by sub-contractors. The company operating the pit that killed eight union members was organized a few years ago, but company management has used all possible tricks to stall and avoid the collective bargaining process by using anti-labour articles of the Turkish trade union legislation.
The local labour court decided that Genel Maden-Is had a sufficient majority to become the bargaining party, but the company challenged it at Court of Cassation, and a final verdict is still pending. During the organizing period, Genel Maden-Is had announced that this subcontractor violated health and safety rules in the pits concerned, this is why the union’s president defines this accident as “murder”
A second deadly coal mine blast in Zonguldak occurred just three days after on 10 January, once again methane gas exploded killing one miner and poisoning three colleagues who attempted to come to his rescue.
“Turkey has the worst safety record in terms of mining accidents and explosions in Europe and the third worst in the world. We again call upon the Turkish Government to immediately ratify and implement ILO’s Convention 176 on Safety in Mines to save lives of miners” said Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL Global Union’s General Secretary.
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