Turkish Parliament approves ILO’s mining safety convention

Turkish Parliament approves ILO’s mining safety convention

Turkish Parliament approves ILO’s mining safety convention

A handout picture released by the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey (AFAD) shows search and rescue team members working on Oct. 18 to rescue 18 miners trapped in a coal mine that collapsed due to flooding in the Ermenek district of Karaman. AFP Photo

The Turkish Parliament has finally approved the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on safety and health in mining, following debates after the recent Soma and Ermenek mining disasters.

Labor Minister Faruk Çelik had stated on Sept. 23 that the Cabinet had already approved signing of the related ILO convention, however, the formal adoption was only approved at Parliament’s General Assembly on Dec. 4.

On May 13, 301 coal miners were killed in a disaster in the western town of Soma, the worst mining disaster in Turkey’s history, which brought working conditions at mines across Turkey into the spotlight.

Before the Soma mine disaster, the country had refused to ratify the ILO convention, highlighting that employers always complain about the cost of enforcing work safety regulations.

The ILO’s Convention No. 176, established in 1995, aims to prevent fatalities, injuries or ill health affecting workers or members of the public, including damage to the environment, from mining operations.

The Safety and Health in Mines Convention has been ratified by 28 countries, including the United States, Brazil, Russia, Armenia, Germany and Zimbabwe, but Turkey has refused to recognize it up to now

The convention delegates responsibility to governments and the owners of mines with regard to safety and health.

The convention came into focus after the mine accident in Soma, with many suggesting that Turkey’s poor workplace safety standards stem partly from its failure to ratify it.

The latest disaster came in October when 18 miners were trapped in a mine in the Central Anatolian province of Karaman’s Ermenek district, after water flooded into their shaft from a neighboring disused mine. All bodies have now been recovered, 38 days after the disaster.

The government aimed to increase measures on mining safety after the Soma disaster. The legal minimum wage given to miners was also increased, while the maximum legal working hours of miners were also decreased. However, many mining companies have complained about the changes and several companies have closed down mines, laying off many workers. The Soma Mining Company, which operates the mine in Soma where 301 workers were killed in May, recently laid off more than 2,800 miners.

Meanwhile, Turkey also recently signed the ILO’s Convention No. 167, established in 1988, on conditions at construction sites. This move came after another workplace accident on Sept. 10, when 10 workers at an Istanbul construction site were killed after the collapse of an industrial elevator.