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Ukrainian miners trapped underground as power cut off

4 April, 2018Some 240 miners were needlessly trapped 1,000 metres underground for several hours after the local electricity provider cut power to the Gorsakaya mine in the Ukraine on 2 April.

An emergency electricity supply ensured the ventilation and pumping of water in the mine. Eventually, electricity was turned on for 80 minutes, allowing all the miners to get to the surface without injury.

On 2 and 3 April, electricity was also cut to 16 different coal mines, including mines at Lisichanskuhillya, Selidovuhillya and Mirnograduhillya compromising operations. Further power outages may occur on 11 April.

IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliates in the country are calling on the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine, which is responsible for electricity supply, to urgently address the deliberate power outages.

Viktor Turmanov, the president of the Trade Union of Coal Indusrty Workers of Ukraine, said:

“At the moment, several enterprises do not pay for electricity because they do not have funds for such payments. We are against the situation at the Gorskaya mine. We believe that the Ministry should work out a mechanism in which enterprises and miners will not suffer. It is vital to find the money to pay for electricity to avoid trouble.”

Mychailo Volynets, president of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU), stated:

“Thermal power stations are also in arrears for coal miners. The Minister of Energy and Coal in Ukraine, Igor Nasalik, is in charge of both state mines and regional electric networks. So, the power outages could not be carried out without the minister's knowledge. In fact, this situation is a crime: you cannot send people to the mine and then turn off the lifting machines.”

According to the Coal Mining Workers’ Union of Ukraine, the total debt of state enterprises, including not only debts for electricity but also debts on wages and health insurance and pension contributions, is 24 billion UAH (US$ 915 million). Funds for the reconstruction and modernization of enterprises are directed only to current needs.

Electricity supply was also cut off for debts at the Kurakhovskaya mine of the state enterprise Selidovuhillya in December 2017. There were 220 miners in the pit and they had to walk 4.5 kilometers along the inclined trunk underground to get to the surface.

Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary, said:

“IndustriALL Global Union urges the Ukrainian authorities to pay attention to the critical situation in the coal industry and listen to the recommendations of trade unions. Miners should not be exposed to unreasonable risk due to the debts of the enterprises.”