Soma mine company officials ‘forged’ record book, disregarded data showing imminent risk

Soma mine company officials ‘forged’ record book, disregarded data showing imminent risk

Banu Şen ISTANBUL / Hürriyet
Soma mine company officials ‘forged’ record book, disregarded data showing imminent risk

Rescuers wait in front of the coal mine after a mine explosion in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa, May 16. REUTERS Photo

The investigation into the mining disaster in Soma, which claimed 301 victims, has revealed that most of the data indicating an increased risk of accident was not recorded in the registers of every incident at the facility, prompting accusations of “forgery.”

An initial expert report prepared in the wake of the disaster, based on the digital information collected by the sensors, showed that carbon monoxide levels at the mine regularly passed beyond the maximum limits allowed, but no mention of those occurrences were made in the record books. Instead, all data in the registers were at their normal value and more routine incidents were recorded, such as the checking of fans in the mine.

“The data collected from sensors were forged as they were recorded in the record books. So, in the background of this disaster, we are seeing a crime of forgery,” said Selçuk Kozağaçlı, the head of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD).

Kozağaçlı, who was beaten by the police when he went to Soma a day after the disaster, added that even the documents that kept the records on the maintenance of the of gas masks were wrong. “We are collecting claims about those documents, too,” he said.

‘Company officials responsible’

The first expert report submitted to prosecutors following the disaster not only notes the discrepancy between the digital data and the record book, but also holds the company’s top officials and supervisors responsible.

“In the inspections carried out, it is seen that most of the data were not transcribed. Considering all these observations, we think the technical and shift supervisors, the general manager, the owner of the facility, the chief engineer responsible for work safety and the chairman of the board are all at fault,” the expert report said.

According to the report, carbon monoxide levels had peaked several times since January up until the disaster on May 13. The report says one particular sensor had recorded levels over 10 times higher than the limit allowed. The data collected throughout the week before the accident also indicated that work at the mine should have been halted, it added.

Prosecutors have determined 39 suspects based on the report, including three who died in the accident. Eight people are currently under arrest pending trial, including the top two individuals responsible for the mine, company chairman Can Gürkan, who is also the owner’s son, and General Manager Ramazan Doğru.

Soma Holding's owner, Alp Gürkan, has not been arrested, but is being prosecuted on charges of fraud in a separate investigation.