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Another fatal explosion at Mindeli mine

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, August 30
Three miners died and seven were badly injured in an explosion at in Mindeli coal mine in Tkibuli late on August 27. It took the rescuers around four hours to find the injured miners while the rest of them had managed to safely escape the pit. The injured miners were first taken to the Tkibuli hospital but were afterwards all admitted to the Burns Injury Clinic in Tbilisi with multiple fractures, 3rd degree burns and shock.

Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili arrived in Tkibuli just in a few hours after the tragedy to meet the other miners and find out about the problems they have at work. He also met with members of the local authorities, police, rescuers and the emergency services that were already at the scene providing assistance to the injured. A methane gas leak seems to be the cause of the incident in mine in Tkibuli, Lasha Makatsaria, the Governor of the Imereti region shared with the media.

The experts who have already launched investigation say the methane gas explosion happened very suddenly thus the exact spot where it ignited remains unknown.

The seven injured miners remain in the rehabilitation department of the Tbilisi Burns Injury Clinic, Otar Murjikneli, a doctor at the Clinic revealed to the media on August 29. Doctors assessed the conditions of the miners as serious but stable, although one is in a critical condition, requiring a respirator to breathe.

President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili expressed his condolences to the miners at the site and ordered the Government to identify each victim and assist their families by employing their parents and covering education fees of their children. The President addressed the miners stating, It is apparent that no safety instruction is actually being given before the employees enter the mines because together with March's explosion this is the second case this year in which so many lives have been sacrificed in such a small town. Everything points to a lack of discipline on the site. I really do understand how dangerous being a miner is, but still each staff member should be asked about security issues before starting the working day. Stressing he is not going to close the mine Saakashvili spoke of the importance of the site and regretted the deaths of the three miners, one of whom was just 24 years old. I would like to request that the experienced staff talk more about security with the youth. I will order the Government to ensure the technical equipment is safe and appoint safety instructors for the site aimed to help you control safety and security, he added.

Meeting Lasha Makatsaria, the Governor of Imereti region in which the coal mine is located Saakashvili spoke of the lack of technical specialists regretting that none of the enrollees had been keen to continue their university studies in the mine-engineering this year as there are no technical institutions in this field. The state has worked out a strategy in this direction. This field has particular obligations and good salaries but we still see a growing number of specialists in international relations rather than those who creating products. Following fashion wont bring us anything good and people should realise that. Its up to the state to define the priorities so we are taking up the great responsibility and working out a state policy oriented on financing fields which are beneficial for the people, declared the President. He indicated that a new Mining College in Tkibuli will soon be established to train professional miners.

This was the second explosion in the Mindeli coal mine this year. A similar incident occurred at the mine on March 2, in which four miners lost their lives for the same reason - a methane gas caused an explosion. Saknakhshiri, the company which owns the mine is a daughter company of the Georgian Industrial Group, and has been operating the Tkibuli mine since 2006. All the details of the case will be investigated and the families of the dead and injured miners will receive compensation from the state, stated Vano Merabishvili.

According to a special order released by the Administration of the President, all the funeral expenditures of the explosion victims and the treatment of the miners injured in the accident will be covered by the Government of Georgia.

A special commission is studying the case of explosion at the Mindeli coal mine and it will announce the results of their investigation. I personally suppose it might have been a cigarette butt or a match near the mine or some other violation of the rules of safe labour within the mine. The only way to defend life in such cases is to inspect the territory before and after each working day. We as people dont really like following even minimal rules, even for our safety, analyst Professor Alexander Tvalchrelidze shared his concern with The Messenger.