Not exceptional at all

Not exceptional at all

Palliative remedies to chronic problems cannot produce lasting or efficient cures to the ailment. Irrespective of political ideology, religion, ethnicity or language, miners are losing their lives in this country because “such deaths are in the nature of the mining industry.” After all, such accidents are exceptional, are they not?

After every deadly mine accident or act of premeditated mass murder investigations are launched, lofty statements are issued that those responsible would be mercilessly punished, but after some time, even the Labor Ministry does not allow, let alone punishment by court, even questioning key mine security department engineers. Why? If it is seen that Turkish mines are like open dead traps with almost no security measures and the people at the responsible positions of the Turkish state is quite happy with a win-win arrangement between politicians and the mine owners/operators, than lucrative deals might go down the drain, many people might end up behind bars.

The Soma tragedy is still fresh in our memories. The people who perished were declared “martyrs” and their families were offered “privileges” in placement to public jobs and some sort of a blood money in the form of a “martyr pension” and the state train continued on to the next mine accident. This time it was in Karaman, it was not because of a blast or collapse of a shaft but a tragedy produced with equal gross negligence. The mine was owned by the state. It was contracted to a company. That company re-contracted its operation to another company. Many mines were dug in the same region over time.

No maps were exchanged and the contracted operator was negligent enough to obtain one and take adequate security measures to prevent an accident.

The “new” mine was several hundred meters below an old mine abandoned decades ago. Tons of rain water accumulated in the old mine over years, turning it into a reservoir. Unaware that they approached the old mine and only few meters were left between them and the above, water-filled old mine, miners continued digging. According to official claims the mine operating company was warned many times of inadequate security measures in the mine, but it not only failed to take efficient measures, hardened further the conditions in the mine to cut costs, increased because of the mine security regulations put in place after the Soma mass massacre.

The indictment was finally written and the people implicated at various degrees in the mass massacre in Soma mine are charged with multiple homicide. What sentences they might eventually face cannot be prejudged, but past experience underlines that despite pre-trial lofty statements and vows that they would die behind bars, whatever sentences they are subjected to will be trivial compared to the loses of those 301 miners: Their lives…

So many days passed since the thin layer between the “old” and the “new” mines could not resist the pressure of the water lake in the above old mine. Eighteen miners perished. “My son did not know how to swim, what he will do now?” desperate screams of a granny in front of the mine are still lingering in the air. Not all of their remains have so far been recovered. The government in Ankara is planning to take new and additional measures to consolidate security in the mines.

No one of course should attempt to belittle those efforts. If in a future mine catastrophe even one life is saved because such measures are taken, that will be a great success. Yet, neither mine accidents are exceptional nor are deaths in mines fate. Through fatalistic approaches we can fool ourselves, but cannot diminish the problem at hand.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is expected to soon announce the details of a new effort to boost mine security, working conditions and operational issues. Since Karaman almost 200 mines were reported to be temporarily shut down and Energy Ministry officials are stressing they will remain closed until all security measures are completed.

Really? Experience has so far shown that such measures by the Turkish state have been “exceptional,” but mine disasters are routine. Can the government change this? Can mine accidents be made “exceptional”?  Who is operating the state-owned or private mines? What are the connections between those businessmen and politicians? What tax did they pay last year? How much money did they donate to the presidential or parliamentary election campaigns?

Mine accidents are premeditated murder committed by the politician-businessman-bureaucracy trio this country, not exceptional accidents.