New cabinet decree gives mining companies until 2020 to match safety standards
BANU ŞEN - İzmir
A miner hugs a relative in front of a coal mine site in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 14, 2014. Reuters PhotoA new cabinet decree has postponed a 2006 obligation and given mining companies in Turkey five additional years to install equipment and protective systems which match international safety standards.
The decree came into effect on Aug. 4 and stated equipment and protective systems which do not match the safety standards outlined in a 2006 regulation can nevertheless be used until 2020, given they pass an evaluation by a certified conformity assessment body.
According to the decree, companies which use ex-proof equipment and protective systems are allowed to operate until they are assessed, but “all responsibility will rest with the employer.”
Republican People’s Party (CHP) Manisa deputy Özgür Özel, who is also a member of the parliamentary committee investigating the Soma mining disaster of May 2014, argued the decree would deteriorate already inadequate regulations to pre-2006 standards.
“Mining companies in Turkey are obliged to use ex-proof equipment since Dec. 31, 2006, and this is supposed to be closely inspected. There were many inadequate rules before the mining disaster in Soma, but lack of rules ensuring the use of ex-proof materials was not one,” Özel said.
The deputy underlined controls were tightened after the incident at Soma and around 130 mines have been closed since for not using ex-proof equipment.
With the new decree, approximately 60 mines could be reopened without matching previously required safety standards, Özel warned.
“Mines will be full of Chinese-made products of poor quality,” he said.
The decree could also affect the lawsuit against the Soma mine’s operator and state-run Turkish Coal Enterprises (TKİ) for “killing with probable criminal intent,” which started on April 13, the deputy alleged.
“Defense lawyers of the Soma case will say, ‘Yes, the expert report criticizes us for not using ex-proof material but this does not make sense in Turkey. After a year and three months from the disaster, the Council of Ministers decided the use of such material was no longer obligatory.’ How will we respond then?” Özel asked.
Poor safety standards in the mining industry are an issue of concern in Turkey, especially after deadly accidents at mines in Soma and Ermenek last year.
The deadliest disaster to date took place in the Aegean district of Soma, where 301 miners were killed 150 meters below ground. In Ermenek, 18 miners drowned during a flood.
Insufficient mining regulations have since been a topic of debate with discussions ranging from forming a permanent supervision system to updating the transfer of mining licenses. Hence, further loosening of regulations is regarded as a surprising move by the government.