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 the responsible 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 not the reason of this tragedy but why these deaths happened.
Coal damages at all stages
Coal destroys life, hurts human and nature at all stages from mining until it reaches the air. Exploitation of nature and this disaster in the coal mine shows us that it is not possible to talk about the ecological destruction apart from the social injustice. We have lots of barriers to go beyond in order not to experience this tragedy in Soma once again.
The reason behind the Soma disaster
During the liberalisation of the electricity market process, government has initiated an auction for royalty transfer leasing tenders to operate the existing coalfields under private management without any condition or enough audits. This sows the seeds of the tragedy in Soma. These regulations were made to make use of all the coal resources as soon as possible to reach the 2023 targets. In a royalty transfer tender, you should consider completely new thermal power plant costs in unit Kw-hr in lieu of the rehab cost above. But existing coal mines do not meet those criteria. 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 has been accelerated and royalty agreements are prioritised 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 government adopts a strategy of using all the coal resources, they can let the cuts from the costs pass unchallenged. As a result, audits are loosened and human life is risked. Turkey still hasn't been party to the ILO's 176. 'Safety and Health in Mines' Convention.
As long as we try to meet our energy demand from coal, this coal will continue to burn lives. We need another plan, a Plan B in order not to live 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.
- To 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.