The worst coal mining disaster of the 21st century happened in Manisa, Soma on 13th of May 2014. This tragedy, where hundreds of coal miners lost their lives showed us once again that as long as the coal continues to be burned, it hurts us at all stages from mining to air pollution, causing thousands of deaths.
The tragedy, which Soma Coal Mining Company declared as an unseen and unexplained accident is actually a result of the profit-focused policies in the energy market. Our real question here today is why these deaths happened.
How did the coal mine explosion happen?
The simplest answer is that coal companies were doing what they wanted to without anyone watching. During a liberalization of the electricity market in Turkey, the Turkish government auctioned off existing coalfield operating licenses to private companies with no conditions and no audits. This essentially means that the coal fields were handed over to private companies who basically had to answer to no one. Until now, of course, when they have to answer to the families of more than 300 deceased coal miners.
This sows the seeds of the tragedy in Soma. The regulations that the Turkish government dismissed were created to make use of all the coal resources as soon as possible to reach the 2023 targets. Companies who take over the coal mines did not give enough attention to human factor and job safety and put profit before safety.
According to the changes in the mining implementation regulation and incentive decisions taken by the Council of Ministers, mining activities have accelerated and royalty agreements are prioritized as a part of giving coal incentives to the coal power plants.
Turkey comes first in terms of coal mining accidents in the global ranking. According to the work accidents ranking of Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK), the highest work accidents are in the mining sector. There are many reasons behind why Turkey ranks first in the mining accidents; such as uncontrolled economic growth greed to proxy wars.
As the Turkish government adopts a “use it all” strategy for coal resources, they allow critical cost cuts to pass unchallenged. As a result, audits are loosened and human life is risked. Turkey has refused to ratify the Safety and Health in Mines Convention of the International Labour Organization.
As long as we use coal instead of clean, renewable energy to meet our energy demand, human lives will be at risk. We need another plan, a Plan B in order not to suffer the same tragedy again.
Our key demands:
- Stop the expansion of new coal power plants
- End the share of coal in electricity production by 2040
- Shifting the priority of electricity licenses of energy power plants from domestic coal to renewables.
- Prepare a national employment plan to shift the coal miners into renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.
- End the subsidies for coal and shift those subsidies to renewable energies as well as removing the barriers on renewable energies.