Turkish Minister Blames 'Dated' Equipment for Mining Accidents

November 7, 2014


Mining accidents in Turkey have been occurring with unsettling frequency. In May 301 miners were killed in a coal mining accident and just last week 18 miners were trapped in a coal mine in the Ermenek district. The accidents have led to massive protests in which government officials and mining authorities have received the brunt of the blame.


But Labor and Social Security Minister Faruk Celik said such blame was misdirected and that the reason for continued mining disasters is because of dated work practices and equipment, some of which have been in place since the 1960's.


Prosecutors working on behalf of the victims of the Soma mining accident are seeking 301 aggravated life sentences each for the CEO and seven senior officials of Soma Holding, the company that operates the Soma mine. The prosecutor's office had requested Celik launch an investigation against state officials and inspectors accused of being at fault in the Soma disaster. Celik rejected the request and said holding officials responsible for the tragedy wouldn't solve the problem.


"If you are still working with '60's-era mine cats in 2014, these accidents will happen." Celik told the Hurriyet daily. The prosecutor asked me permission to launch an investigation over Soma. I did not give it. Kasim Ozer, the person depicted as being the perpetrator of the incident is my occupational health and safety director. What does my director – who is responsible for preparing legislation regarding the safety of workers – have to do with this incident?"


Celik's argument rests on his belief that as long as mining operations use old mining equipment and dated techniques, accidents will continue. He has defied several requests to investigate certain officials and has also refused to provide a list of safety inspectors at the mines in question since 2009.


Celik says the only way to eliminate such accidents as Soma is to replace the outdated equipment with modern mining machinery. However, questions still remain about who is responsible when such accidents occur and who should be held accountable. If safety inspectors are doing their job why did they not report the conditions at these mines and make note of the equipment being used? Since Celik is unwilling to release information about the safety inspectors some are questioning his motives.