Ukraine’s Mines remain deadly


With President Yanukovych about to visit the Donetsk region and take part in measures to mark Miners’ Day, the Radio Svoboda Ukrainian Service considers the death rate at Ukrainian mines which remains one of the worst in the world. Each year Ukraine extracts 70 millions tonnes of coal. Each million costs the lives of two miners.

37 miners died at the end of July in two mines – the Sukhodilska-Eastern Mine in the Luhansk region [owned by billionaire and Party of the Regions MP, Rinat Akhmetov – translator] and at the Bazhanov Miner in the Donetsk region.

28 children and young people lost their fathers.

The enquiry commission over the Bazhanov Mine accident identified several factors. The collapse of the lift shaft occurred because of poor quality concrete, heavy equipment and bad weather conditions. The disaster at the Sukhodilska-Eastern Mine was found to have been caused by a methane explosion from a spark.

As reported, one of the miners from the Sukhodilska-Eastern Mine, Ihor Smetanin stated at the time that the accident was linked with the management disregarding the bad state of the safety conditions and demands on the men to produce more and more.

Every year men die in Ukrainian mines and each time government officials promise “fundamental and firm” moves on assessing the situation and determining responsibility for people’s safety. The Head of the Independent Trade Union of Miners and National Deputy from BYUT, Mykhailo Volynets believes that the government is not interested in naming the real reason for the accident since then they’ll have to hold the real culprits liable. He says that practice shows that they always try to find a scapegoat, or put the blame on the miners who died in an acceident.

The Head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, Vasyl Khara says that the high level of accidents is a legacy from the Soviet mining industry and also blames the human factor – seen both in the attitude to the miners and safety standards and in miners’ own attitude to safety requirements.  [For a slightly different perspective regarding why miners do not follow safety standards, see and links below - translator].

For decades a Soviet system for calculating wages was in place, with norms needing to be reached which led men to ignore safety requirements.

Three years ago a Law on Increasing the Prestige of Miners’ Work was passed. This introduced an hourly rate.  Khara says that this had little effect on the rate of industrial injuries. 

Not all miners agreed to the hourly rate, fearing that a decrease in the amount of coal extracted could lead to mine closures.

Mykhailo Volynets, however, is in support of the hourly rate and says that this is what applies in other countries where the industrial accident rate is lower than in Ukraine. He adds though that the law is in force only with regard to increase in pension raised back in autumn 2008, while the hourly rate was blocked by the general directors and officials responsible for the mining industry.

From a report at:

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