Turkish mines become death traps for 105 in 2010

Turkey’s rapid economic growth brings with it a high amount of workplace accidents in mines, as scores of workers die every year. A total of 105 people died in 61 accidents due to mine explosions and cave-ins last year, according to data from mining engineers. Among European countries, Turkey ranks at the top.

A total of 105 miners died due to mining accidents in Turkey last year, according to data released Friday by the Chamber of Mining Engineers and the Turkish Hard Coal Enterprises, or TTK.

The chamber said the deaths came from 61 mining accidents – 43 of them underground and 18 in open mines.

As mining is a hard and high-risk profession, serious measures should be taken, according to Mehmet Torun, chairman of the chamber.

In terms of global statistics, Turkey ranked third in mining accidents last year, just behind Russia and India, while it ranked top among European countries. “A total of 48 people died from mining accidents in Turkey in 2008. This figure increased to 92 people in 2009 and 105 people last year,” Torun said. “Figures are rising each year. This situation shows authorities’ neglect and lack of regulation.”

Mine explosions, cave-ins and landslide accidents occurred last year in coalmines in Turkey’s provinces Ankara, Balıkesir, Bolu, Edirne, Eskişehir, Giresun, Kütahya, Malatya and Zonguldak. The majority of accidents occurred in coal mines, but many fatal incidents also happened in marble plants, aluminum facilities, stone quarries, zinc facilities and chrome mines.

Cave-ins caused by methane gas explosions in coalmines were the major reason for the fatalities. During such explosions, the temperature can rise to 2,650 degrees Celsius; combined with high pressure, miners are generally killed instantly.

Thousands of deaths in half a century

Most mining accidents in Turkey have occurred in the northern province of Zonguldak, one of Turkey’s richest areas in coal.

A total of 2,915 people have died and 326,000 people injured due to mining accidents in Turkey since 1955.

“Investment in job safety, planning, miner training and strict government control should be implemented to decrease the number of accidents,” Torun said.

China has become notorious for fatal mining accidents, but according to Torun one has to look into the amount of coal produced to see things in perspective.

“Around 2,500 miners died in China [according to official figures] last year due to accidents,” Torun said. “But China is the world’s leading coal producer. Only last year, it produced 2.7 billion tons of coal. This figure was 80 million tons in Turkey.”

According to these figures, one Chinese worker dies per 1 million tons of coal extracted, while the figure in Turkey is one fatality per 762,000 tons.

Conditions in Turkey and Poland are similar in terms of underground coal enterprises, but the proportion of fatalities in Turkey is four times higher than Poland, Torun said.

The worst mining accident last year in Turkey occurred in TTK’s Karadon mine in Zonguldak on May 17. A methane gas explosion caused a gallery to collapse and killed 30 miners. Eleven were saved. The bodies of two miners have yet to be recovered.

The second worst accident was in a private mine in the Dursunbey district of the northwestern province of Balıkesir on Feb. 23 when 17 people died.




About this entry