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Mine accident claims two more lives

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, August 15
The situation in Georgian mines remains unacceptable and the government should urgently take measures to make the situation safer. Statements concerning the issue were made by the public defender of Georgia, Ucha Nanuashvili and metallurgy trade union representatives. They state that the number of deaths in the mines has increased from year-to-year and the mine owners, as well as the labor code do not regulate the safety environment.

Two miners in the village of Itkhvisi in the Chiatura region died on August 13.

The workers were digging a tunnel underground, when the sudden flow of water dragged them back and drowned them.

According to the relatives and workers of the mine, the main reason behind the tragic events is the out of date equipment and the absence of safety norms.

“The workers did not want to go into the mine, they felt the danger. However, the administration told them that they would lose their jobs if they rejected the order. As soon as they touched the floor water rushed in,” said Iuza Samkharadze, a cousin of one of the dead men.

“It is possible that I might lose my job due to my statement,” Samkharadze said.

The employees stress that the Georgian Manganese administration does nothing to improve the conditions for the mine workers.

“After the mine workers strike in October 2013, the mine owners took obligations that have not been met…The company provided equipment, however, they either need remaking or are dangerous for the workers’ health,” union representative Merab Chinchaladze said.

The metallurgy professional union demands an investigation into the issue. According to the organization, there have been some attempts in the media to attribute the deaths to a natural disaster.

“It is in someone’s interest for the event to be called a disaster rather than industrial trauma. The mine administration does not take any recommendations into account and the hiding of accidents has become a casual event there,” the organization said. According to the union, the local authorities should prod the company into revealing why they did not ensure geological exploration of the area prior to workers being sent there.

“According to the information delivered by the Interior ministry, the number of injured workers in 2010 was 102, and 43 deaths; in 2013 137 men were injured in the mines and 54 died. Figures of 2013 are being tallied,” Nanuashvili said.

Public defender gave recommendations to the government in this regard. Nanuashvili also recommended the formation of a state institution that will be charged with monitoring labor safety inside the country.

Based on the current legislation of Georgia employer is obliged to take every reasonable measure for health protection of an employee (Article 35 of the labor code). However, enforcement of this legislation is problematic.