TURKEY: Probe launched into Soma coal mine disaster and 15-year-old victim

[14 May 2014] - A legal investigation has been launched into the mining disaster in Soma, with the Labor Ministry set to investigate related claims, including one that a child working in the mine was one of those who perished. 

Kemal Yıldız, one of at least 245 miners who has lost their lives in the mining disaster in the western province of Manisa, was only 15 years old, one of his relatives told Doğan News Agency on the sideline of a nearby morgue.

“I have nothing to say,” the mourning uncle said. 

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız told Hürriyet that employing a 15-year-old in mines was “impossible.” In a further statement, he said neither the company nor the trade union had confirmed any employee with the name given. 

Nurettin Akçul, the head of the Turkey Mines Trade Union, also said they did not have such a member.

Labour Minister Faruk Çelik told daily Hürriyet in Ankara that his ministry would fulfill all of its duties.

“Why might a 15-year-old boy be in the mine? This is something to investigate separately. We will look into all of these details,” he said.

The minister said the records at the mining company would be inspected and that he would head to the site on May 15. 

The disaster has drawn attention to the conditions of workers in mines across the country. Many have denounced the authorities’ negligence for turning a blind eye to the company’s practices, allegedly enhancing profits to the detriment of workers’ safety. 

Some 6,500 workers are employed in the privately owned mine, which is also the largest mine in the region.

The mine’s operator, the Soma Coal Mining Company, had promoted the facility as a model for high-profit, low-cost coal mining. 


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