Turkey may even lag behind China in mining safety, productivity

Turkey may even lag behind China in mining safety, productivity

Turkey may even lag behind China in mining safety, productivity

A mine worker from Soma participates in a protest in Ankara. AA Photo

Turkey is set to fall behind even China in working conditions at coal mines and will become the world’s worst, according to a fresh report by the Economy Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), months after the tragic May 13 Soma disaster.

It is not only in work safety, but also in productivity and miners’ salaries that Turkey lags behind almost all noteworthy producers across the world, the report stated. 

A calculation that covers figures between 2007 and 2012 shows the number of miners killed per 10 million tons of production in Turkey stands as 46, though this figure is still lower than China's 72. The same figure for the given period is 0.2 in the U.S.

However, the Soma disaster, which claimed 302 lives, may put Turkey in a worse position, as the death toll in Chinese mines dropped by 75 percent from 2003 to 2013 as production almost doubled, mainly due to safety policy improvements in the sector, the report said.

The average miner produces 1,500 tons of coal in Turkey annually, according to figures from 2012 and 2013, which shows productivity at one eighth of the U.S. or Australia. In other words, one U.S. miner produces eight times the amount of coal that a Turkish miner does, due to the use of more advanced technology.

The difference does not derive from the nature of the mines, as some 80 percent of sellable Turkish coal output in 2012 came from open quarry mines known for high productivity, the report stated.

Eurostat figures say the value of the annual coal production of one Turkish miner stands at 19,200 euros on average in Turkey, far below Germany's 96,600 euros, for example, TEPAV said. Germany is known for high-quality lignite production.

Turkish miners are also not lucky compared to their global colleagues in terms of salaries. A coal miner in Turkey is paid 12,900 euros on average annually, which is only half the level of the Czech Republic, which comes next among large coal producers. The figure is around five times higher in developed European countries, such as Germany and the U.K. A Greek miner is paid around 43,400 euros annually on average.

Reports following the Soma disaster suggested that mining bosses were putting Turkish miners’ lives at risks in a bid to improve productivity. However, productivity figures, based on annual added value production minus salaries, also show that Turkish mines are not productive when compared to other leading coal producers.

A 2010 report by TEPAV became a reference text after the Soma incident, and the latest report repeated the same advice, also highlighting the country’s foreign dependency in energy.

Turkey is increasingly importing coal, despite the fact that it is the 12th largest producer in the world and ranks sixth in Europe with 76.6 million tons, 72.7 tons of which are lignite.

The reported stated that Turkey was trying to overcome low productivity through low salaries, particularly stressing that the inspection procedures were highly problematic at many mines.