As Turkish PM Terms Mine Explosion ‘Ordinary’, Workers Reveal The Reality Of The Hazardous Work Conditions

Posted on June 4, 2014 in GlobeScope

By Mihika Jindal:

‘Humanistic’ — defined as someone who is concerned with the interests and welfare of humans. ‘Civilised Society’ — defined as to have a humane culture amongst the people living together and co-existing.

Are we missing something?

There seems to be a major gap between the humans and them being humane towards fellow humans — unfortunately this gap is only growing! An explosion followed by a fire, rocked a coal mine in Soma, a province near Manisa in Western Turkey on 13th May, 2014 claiming over 300 lives. The incident, more disastrous than any other mine explosion in Turkey, has left the affected area grim and in state of complete dismay. The incident reportedly took place at a time when the shifts were changing, trapping more than expected number inside the mine. NTV Television reported that the explosion happened 2 kilometres inside the mine.


Coal mines have always been prone to severe mishaps owing to its hazardous nature which makes it even more essential for coal companies to take that extra care to build effective and full proof safety measures. The story in Turkey, unfortunately, is the flip side. Alp Gurkan, company owner of the mine where the blast happened, is claiming that the company had heavily invested in safety and asserted that Soma mine was a ‘first class work place’. The present picture, however, narrates a different story. The analysis affirms that the reason for the calamity which claimed so many hardworking lives was clearly lax of safety measures employed at the mines.

Yilmaz, a miner (name changed for possible fear of retribution) expressed his grief and sentiments on his new routine where he spends a substantial amount of time attending funerals of his co-miners. “Work safety? There is no work safety. They cut corners wherever they can”, said Yilmaz, as reported in The Guardian. His list of grievances seems to be rolling out endlessly. He goes 400 meters down the pit everyday with company provided rubber boots and shoddy plastic hats. As basic a thing as gloves, which wear and tear on daily basis have to be bought by the miners out of the meagre salaries that they receive.

Reportedly, inspections happen at these mines but the notices are sent way ahead in time giving companies adequate time to veil their deficiencies. The malfunctioning machineries are hidden away, hazardous trenches and pits are shut down, misdemeanours are corrected and clean working conditions are portrayed. The miners expressed to Turkish media that disaster management, is only confined to classrooms and theories and no practical exercises are ever undertaken.

Soma mines have emerged as a classic example of monopolist exploitation. Coal is a diminishing resource, which is why the coal companies are focused on extracting as much as possible by hook or by crook caring less for labour upkeep and welfare. Any upheaval against the administration or any other peripheral reason is enough for the workers to get reprimanded resulting in them getting laid off followed by being black-listed. They have no alternate way other than succumbing to the inhuman and callous management. 40% of their energy is received from mainly bituminous coal from just 52 mines across 25 states (reported in counterpunch). The monopoly is far established due to improper opportunity to labour ratio.

The post explosion scenario turned explosive (pun intended) when the mine massacre was termed ‘ordinary’ by Turkish Prime Minister. The Turkish media reported that the mob went violent and hurled rocks and fire at the mob-police which was controlled with the use of tear gas and water cannons. The PM rather callously asserted, “It happens here. It’s in its nature. It’s not possible for there to be no accident in mines. Of course, we were deeply pained by the extent here”. He declared three days of mourning. The statement makes one cringe and guffaw all at the same time.

Turkey has not ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Helath & Safety in Mines, which should have been a mandate for the country owing to a significant mining activity.

If the basic safety and working conditions are not in place, which ends up in claiming lives in huge numbers — can it really be passed as an accident or can the white collared culprits be charged for murder? One needs to ponder! A serious thought has to be given to the situation and the nation must pose a question to its working and governance — is it justified for suited people to sit in their air conditioned infrastructures, counting money bills and decide the fate of those hapless workers who literally put their blood and sweat into this, on account of ‘cost cutting’? History has it that a nation will prosper only when it values its human resource and its possibly high time when Turkey realizes it too!