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Safety measures at Soma mine were sub-standard

24 June 2014

Two Chileans involved in the mining industry, who experienced the widely reported mine accident in Copiapo four years ago have blamed the Turkish authorities for not adopting the necessary safety measures at the Soma mine, where 301 workers were killed in a mining disaster on 13th May, Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ reports.

One of the 33 Chilean miners who was trapped for 69 days after the collapse of the San Jose copper-gold mine and the head of the team that orchestrated the rescue operation are visiting Turkey to meet with the authorities and the victims’ families in Soma.

Both are emphatic that the loss of life could have been significantly reduced if all safety measures, as well as the quality of the equipment used in the rescue operation, were up to international standards.

“The problem in your country is the scope and gravity of the accident was not foreseen in advance. Otherwise, it would have been possible to save more lives, even if this meant only one person,” said Rodrigo Reveco during a press conference in Istanbul 23rd June.

“To be realistic, it is very difficult to save lives considering the [current] conditions at the Soma mine,” Reveco added.

Luis Unzua, who spent 69 days underground with his 32 colleagues following the collapse of the San Jose copper-gold mine, stressed the importance of the refuge chambers, an area that provides safety and breathing protection for personnel underground.

“[In refuge chambers] we can find first aid equipment needed in emergency situations. These chambers have been designed to shelter miners until the arrival of rescue teams. As miners, we have to be ready for this kind of situation, but it is important that companies also provide this sort of information and [training],” said Unzua.

Both Unzua and Reveco are set to travel to Ankara on 24th June, before heading to Soma the next day, where they will stay for two days.

Reveco said they contacted the Turkish diplomatic officials in Chile in the wake of the Soma accident and lamented the minimal amount of support received by the international community.

“As far as I learned, the equipment used during the rescue operations in Turkey was not up to international standards. What happened in Turkey could have been prevented by taking lessons from the accident in Chile. Our task here will be to assess what mistakes had been made and what could be done to improve them,” Reveco said.

Far from taking lessons from the accident in Chile, former Energy Minister Vehbi Dinçer claimed that the miners would have been rescued in three days if such an accident would have occurred in Turkey.

The Soma accident became the largest mining disaster in the country’s history, triggering an investigation into the operating company, whose officials deny all responsibility. The company’s chairman, Can Gürkan, and general manager, Ramazan Doğru, are still under arrest along with several other officials while the owner, Alp Gürkan, is being investigated on charges of fraud.

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