Soma mine owner ‘risking lives’ to reopen other facilities

Soma mine owner ‘risking lives’ to reopen other facilities

Soma mine owner ‘risking lives’ to reopen other facilities

General view of the coal mine site in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa following the accident that claimed the lives of 301 workers. REUTERS Photo

The management of Soma Holding, the owner of the coal mine in western Turkey where 301 workers tragically died on May 13, has sped up efforts to reopen its remaining two Soma mines, which an opposition lawmaker has described as “risking lives.”

Özgür Özel, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Manisa deputy, said some 150 to 200 people – instead of the required 50 to 60 – were working at the Ata Bacası mine, which is currently being prepared for an inspection.

“The production manager promised a salary increase from 5,000 [Turkish Liras, monthly] to 20,000 and a CEO seat if he managed to finish the maintenance and ready the mine for inspection as soon as possible,” Özel said.

He claimed that miners were being called to go back to work in Soma despite the mines not passing the necessary safety tests, and also suggested that Soma Holding was “sending more people down to the mine for maintenance than there should be.”

On June 11, “a disaster was slightly averted” as miners were just able escape after a fire broke out in a part of the mine, Özel said.

“You should not be forced to go down into mines that have not undergone the correct safety procedures,” he added, advising workers to submit petitions that stress their concerns over the mine safety.

Özel also said the families of the miners were calling on him to help prevent their premature return to work.