TODAYSZAMAN.COM – Turkey not adopting int’l convention blamed for Soma disaster

Turkey not adopting int’l convention blamed for Soma disasterTurkey not having ratified a significant international convention on safety and health in mines stands as another form of negligence after the country’s deadliest mining disaster in Soma, a district of Manisa province.More than 282 miners were killed and 80 injured in an explosion and fire that broke out at a coal mine in western Turkey on Tuesday, making it one of the world’s biggest mining accidents. Most of the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Rescuers have desperately been racing against time to reach the 150 miners still trapped underground.After the death toll started to rise, claims emerged that negligence was a major cause of the disaster in the coal mine.Among the significant number of claims of negligence, Turkey not ratifying the International Labour Organization’s (ILO)onvention concerning safety and health in mines that dates back to 1995 and entered into force in 1998 has raised questions in the minds of many over whether Turkey carried out its duty and responsibilities regarding the applicable international law.Chairman of the Mining Engineers Chamber, a Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) affiliate, Ayhan Yuksel told Today’s Zaman Turkey has signed many agreements and conventions to date but he said the main problem is that these submissions have not entered into force.“Turkey has signed many agreements and conventions. However, the important thing is not Turkey signing conventions but complying with international norms. Even if Turkey adopts the convention, the problem will continue to exist. Our many laws are in line with international norms however, the fact that these norms have not been entered into force continues to be Turkey’s main problem,” Yuksel told Today’s Zaman.In a statement released on Wednesday, ILO General Director Guy Ryder also drew attention to safety in mines. He said the tragedy in Soma is a reminder of the “paramount importance of occupational safety and health” in the mining sector. “The ILO stands ready to provide continued support to ensure the safety of workers in line with international standards and to prevent future accidents,” Ryder said in the statement.The convention that Turkey has not yet adopted imposes important responsibilities on mining companies and governments. The convention has so far been signed by 28 countries around the world, including the United States, Russia, Germany, Armenia, Albania, Lebanon, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The convention stipulates employers to take all the necessary measures to eliminate or minimize the risks to safety and health in mines under their control take measures and precautions appropriate to the nature of a mine operation to prevent, detect and combat the start and spread of fires and explosions and ensure that when there is serious danger to the safety and health of workers, operations are stopped and workers are evacuated to a safe location.The convention also grants miners the right to freely and without prejudice notify the authorities and mine management of unsafe conditions. They have the right to call for expedited inspections or investigations and to have full access to all information and data concerning mine health and safety. They also have the right to leave a mining operation in the event of serious risk. In addition, worker representation backing these rights is guaranteed.Yuksel says the convention is not a random agreement but an ILO convention, underlining that it is necessary for Turkey to adopt the ILO convention in order to meet international standards.“ILO norms are contemporary norms that should be adopted around the world. If this convention was adopted, the reports on Turkey’s job security would be much more optimistic,” Yuksel stated.Turkey has had the highest number of deadly mining accidents over the past three years, ahead of China, according to data from ILO. Over the past 31 years, 14 mining accidents have occurred in Turkey, with the latest one being the mine blast and fire in Soma, which has killed at least 238 miners.Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions. Coal mining is responsible for more fatalities than the production of any other energy source due to poor working conditions in producing countries such as Turkey, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Colombia.Mine in Soma outfitted with only one refuge chamberReports circulating in the Turkish media have claimed there is only one mine refuge chamber, a stainless steel emergency cabin that is key for miners to survive disasters, in the mine owned by the Soma Coal Mining Company.According to mine safety experts, workers trapped in the mine could have survived for an extended period of time if the mine in Soma had refuge chambers that are commonly used in other countries.Refuge chambers offer very good odds of survival, even in the event of explosions, fires or the release of hazardous gases. Thirty-three Chilean miners rescued in 2010 after being trapped underground for 69 days had escaped to such a room after the roof in a copper and gold mine in Chile had collapsed.Although 363 miners have been rescued in Soma up to now, some 150 more have not been accounted for. No miner has been brought out alive since early Wednesday.Making it obligatory for mines to have refuge chambers reportedly came onto the agenda after a mining accident in Zonguldak’s coal town of Kozlu three years ago. However, a proposal for refuge chambers was not adopted, reports say.

SOURCE: Today Zaman

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