Turkey to beef up mine safety

2014-05-30 16:13

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Istanbul - The Turkish government on Friday submitted a bill to improve safety and working conditions in mines following the disaster that killed 301 workers earlier this month, a parliamentary source said.

The bill, submitted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), reduces weekly working hours for miners from 48 to 30 hours, significantly raises their pay, and grants them early retirement, the source told AFP.

It also requires mining companies to improve safety measures after the disaster in the western town of Soma, the worst in the country's history, reignited concerns over lax safety in a country with the highest number of mining deaths in Europe.

Mines will have to be equipped with rescue chambers, which were lacking at the Soma mine, and workers will be given high-quality gas masks to protect themselves from toxic gases.

Most of the victims in the accident died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

An expert report on the accident pointed to several safety violations in the mine in Soma, including a shortage of carbon monoxide detectors and ceilings made of wood instead of metal.

The operators Soma Komur, accused of flouting basic safety standards to maximise profits, has denied any responsibility, but eight of its officials have been arrested and charged with manslaughter.

Mine explosions and collapses are frequent in Turkey, but both the scale and handling of the disaster could weaken the hand of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of an expected run for the presidency in August.

Protesters clashed with police in several cities after Erdogan played down the accident and compared it to mining disasters from 19th-century Britain.

However, the premier remains hugely popular particularly among rural Turks and faces a fragmented opposition that ensures he remains a formidable political force.

Turkey's previous worst mining accident occurred in 1992 when 263 workers were killed in a gas explosion in a mine in Zonguldak.

Read more on:    recep tayyip erdogan  |  turkey

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