Ombudsman blames civil servants for Turkey’s largest mining disaster

Ombudsman blames civil servants for Turkey’s largest mining disaster

Turan Yılmaz ANKARA
Ombudsman blames civil servants for Turkey’s largest mining disaster

The Soma disaster claimed 301 lives.

Civil servants acted insufficiently in regard to Turkey’s worst-ever mining disaster in Soma on May 13 and should have been probed more thoroughly, Turkey’s official ombudsman said Dec. 30.

The high-ranking civil servants should have resigned before a warning from the government, the report noted.

“There is no doubt that the ‘administrative functions’ and high-ranking civil servants who handle tasks, rather than governmental functions, were responsible for the Soma mine accident,” read the much-anticipated report, which was revealed Dec. 30.

“They were expected to perform the required democratic reaction before the politicians. It should not be considered an exaggeration that they should leave their posts before being removed from their seats by those in political power,” it said.

The Soma disaster claimed 301 lives, bringing poor working and safety conditions at Turkish coal mines once again into the spotlight.

As the government pledged to take more precautions in the industry in the wake of the accident, six months later, in October, 18 miners were trapped in a mine in the Central Anatolian province of Karaman’s Ermenek district after water flooded into their gallery from a neighboring, disused mine.
The Turkish Parliament approved earlier this month the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on safety and health in mining, following debates after the recent disasters.

“Turkey has not adopted the culture of resigning,” said Public Audit Mehmet Elkatmış during a press meeting at the Parliament Dec. 30.

“This is our deficiency,” he said, adding that the responsibility of the politicians in disasters was a concern for the politicians themselves and that the ombudsman would avoid commenting on the matter due to its nature.

“A motion of censure on the issue has already been submitted. That is totally a political matter,” he said, attaching a role to the “conscience” of the politicians.

The report also said regulations that were linked to particular incidents were damaging the sense of justice in the society.

This basically means, the report elaborated, that the social aid to be provided for the families of the Soma and Ermenek victims should also be offered to the families of all employees in risky jobs, mainly all miners.

Elkatmış also complained about problems in the distribution of social support.

The report strongly criticized the administrative authorities for not permitting an investigation into the civil servants responsible.

The mining inspection authority, MİGEM, lacked the capacity to fulfill its responsibilities in terms of structure, human resources, and technical capabilities, it said.

The report added that rescue chambers, which might have saved miners’ lives, should be compulsory.