Two coal mine workers were trapped for 11 hours in a collapsed mine on Sunday in northwestern Turkey’s Zonguldak province, the Bianet news website reported.
Twenty-six-year-old Furkan Bahar and 33-year-old Anıl Açıcı were extracted by rescue workers after the collapse. Both are reportedly in good condition.
The accident once again raised concerns over safety in the coal mining industry, where mining disasters are worryingly common.
Union members and mining engineers have pointed to the Turkish government’s policies as the number-one reason for mining disasters.
Ayhan Yüksel, chairman of the Chamber of Mining Engineers, said since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, more than 2,000 miners had died in accidents across the country.
Yüksel added that the government had normalized mining disasters by saying they were a normal part of the job. This sentiment was expressed in 2014 by then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after 301 miners were killed in western Turkey in what is known as the nation’s worst mining disaster.
The fatal accident was caused by a fire inside a coal mine in the Soma district of Manisa province in May 2014. The deaths were caused by carbon monoxide spread through the mine by the fire.
According to Yüksel, mining companies did not take necessary precautions to prevent accidents because the government does not enforce regulations. Furthermore, such companies were not adequately inspected and were not penalized if they were culpable in an accident.
Tayfun Görgün from a left-wing mining union said without proper inspections and planning, mining accidents would be unavoidable in Turkey. He added that companies were completely unchecked because workers were in practice not allowed to unionize.
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), Turkey is a leading country in fatal mining accidents. Only last year 41 miners were killed in an explosion in northwestern Bartın province. The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said a report by Turkey’s Court of Accounts, a state audit authority, had warned in 2019 of risks at the same mine.
Speaking to the media, Emin Koramaz, head of the Union of Turkish Engineers and Architects Chambers, said inspections were not carried out adequately partly because staff numbers had been reduced, cutting qualified personnel. He added that mining accidents had become routine in Turkey because mining science was being ignored and that there was a lack of technical knowledge and infrastructure.