The Mindeli coal mine in Tkibuli, Georgia, has been closed after four miners were killed, and six others were injured.
IndustriALL affiliate the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG) reports that on 16 July, the ceiling of a the tunnel in the Mindeli mine collapsed, apparently due to a methane gas explosion. Four miners were killed on the spot as a result of serious injuries. Six miners were burned and taken to hospital. Two are in a particularly serious condition.
A criminal investigation has been launched against mine owner Saknakhshiri GIG, the coal subsidiary of Georgian Industrial Group (GIG), under the second part of Article 240 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which implies a violation of safety rules in mining, construction or other works. The offence is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years. Mine management was summoned to the police station for questioning.
The Prime Minister of Georgia declared 16 July a day of mourning due to the tragedy. All production sites of the two mines in Tkibuli will be closed until the investigation is completed. Miners’ salaries will be paid during the downtime.
Previously, on 5 April, the collapse of lateral rocks of a tunnel at the Mindeli mine lead to the death of six miners, while three were injured. TUMMCIWG engaged international engineering expertise, inviting specialists from Ukraine. According to them, the accident was mainly caused by the wrong organization of work and the health and safety systems.
Tamaz Dolaberidze, TUMMCIWG president, stated:
“The Prime Minister’s statement about the government decision repeats the demands made by the Georgian trade unions after the tragedy of 5 April. We demanded a temporary stop of operation at the mines, studying the risks and dangers with the involvement of foreign experts, taking preventive measures on the results.
“We also demanded that the miners are provided with a salary for the period of forced downtime. If the government had taken this decision immediately when the unions asked, we would have avoided the accident on 16 July”.
There are no alternative jobs in Tkibuli, and local residents are forced to work in mines with high risk of danger.
According to the Georgian Trade Union Confederation, 18 people were killed in workplace accidents in Georgia in the first quarter of 2018.
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:
”We mourn the dead and wish a speedy recovery to all those affected by this terrible tragedy. We share the concerns of our affiliate about health and safety issues and call on the Georgian government to take effective measures according to the results of the investigation, which is currently underway.”
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