[Marxism] Turkey’s neoliberal death toll: Hundreds of miners died in great Soma massacre – Sendika.Org
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Wed May 14 09:59:12 MDT 2014
More on mines and neoliberalism.
NY Times, May 14, 2014
2 Killed in West Virginia Mine Where Safety Lapses Were Cited
By DANIEL HEYMAN and MICHAEL WINES
WHARTON, W.Va. — Two miners died late Monday in an accident inside a
West Virginia coal mine whose long history of safety violations had
already brought it under special scrutiny by federal officials.
The accident at the Brody No. 1 mine in Wharton, about 30 miles south of
Charleston, occurred as the miners were carving away at one of the many
pillars of coal that kept the roof from collapsing, the mine owner, the
Patriot Coal Corporation of St. Louis, said in an emailed statement.
The company said the miners died in a “severe coal burst,” a violent
ejection of coal that can occur as the removal of a pillar shifts the
roof’s weight to surrounding ones too weak to handle the added stress.
The pillars, often 60 to 80 feet square, are the last remaining coal in
a section of a mine that is being abandoned. Retreat operations are
among the most dangerous in underground mining.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration said in an email that federal
investigators had arrived at the mine but that the cause of the accident
had not been determined.
The Brody mine has a history of federal citations for serious safety
violations, according to inspection reports on the mine safety
administration’s website dating to January 2011.
Federal mine safety officials had already taken two actions that are
reserved for mines with the most egregious safety problems, said Tony
Oppegard, a lawyer in Lexington, Ky., who is a former adviser to the
head of the federal mine safety administration.
The first was a so-called blitz inspection, an unannounced check by a
large team of federal safety officials. The second, called a
pattern-of-violations letter, was sent to the mine in October. The mine
safety administration said the letters “focus on those mine operators
who demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners through
a recurring pattern of significant and substantial violations.”
In the months since the Brody mine received its pattern-of-violations
notice, the mine safety administration said, regulators have evacuated
parts of the mine 69 times for substantial violations of safety rules,
among other closing orders.
Mr. Oppegard said that “companies refer to it as the death-penalty
letter,” because it gives the agency the authority to close parts of
mines if violations continue, and because the letter’s strictures cannot
be lifted until mine operators meet safety standards that some claim are
Patriot officials contested the letter at the time, saying that many of
the violations occurred before the company bought the mine in December
2012. Since then, they said, Patriot had submitted a new safety plan
that “made considerable and measurable progress toward improved safety
Safety records show, however, that the mine had been cited 46 times
since 2011, including 16 times in 2013 and this year, for unwarrantable
failure to comply with safety rules, which the agency defines as
“aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence.” The
agency levied more than $4.2 million in fines for the 2013 and 2014
The Charleston Gazette reported on Tuesday that federal audits in 2012
and 2013 uncovered 37 injuries to miners that the company did not report
to federal officials.
Federal records show that the mine, which employs about 300, produced
almost a million tons of coal last year, a substantial amount in a
region that has been mined intensively.
The victims were identified as Eric D. Legg, 48, of Twilight, W.Va., and
Gary P. Hensley, 46, of Chapmanville, W.Va. Mr. Legg was on his last
week at the mine and was soon to start at another, said Robert Rash, 45,
a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician.
Daniel Heyman reported from Wharton, and Michael Wines from New York.
NY Times, May 14 2014
Tunisian Discontent Reflected in Protests That Have Idled Mines
By CARLOTTA GALL
GAFSA, Tunisia — Tunisians often say the first uprising of the Arab
Spring began not in 2010 after the self-immolation of a fruit vendor,
Mohamed Bouazizi, but in 2008, when protests over corrupt hiring
practices at the mines of Gafsa ran on for six months. It is a measure
of the lingering challenges of Tunisia’s revolution that people here are
still in revolt.
In the towns of Moulares and Redeyef, protests have idled the phosphate
mines — a cornerstone of the economy — for much of the last three years.
Citizens regularly block roads and burn tires. Police and government
officials are barely tolerated.
“We will never stop this strike until we get a job,” said Bashir
Mabrouki, 28, in a group of young people who huddled around a brazier
while guarding a barricade of rocks and scrap metal that blocked
shipments last month. “We are being played by the government and their
The complaints are an enduring refrain even since the overthrow of
President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. They point to what
many here see as the unfinished business of their revolution, and a
problem endemic across North Africa: the failure to meet the aspirations
of a youthful population.
The joblessness and aimlessness of young people remain a deep well of
volatility, whether or not countries took part in the Arab Spring. Youth
unemployment in neighboring Algeria is at 21 percent, according to World
Bank data. In Egypt it is 25 percent, and in Morocco, 18 percent.
Here in Tunisia, where more than 30 percent of young people cannot find
work, the Gafsa mines are in many ways emblematic of the challenges that
Jobs here have been declining since a shift to open-pit mining in the
1970s. Wary of unrest, successive governments have put the state’s
shoulder behind creating 15,000 jobs in the phosphate mines and attached
environment, forestry and transport enterprises.
While International Monetary Fund economists criticized the efforts for
expanding the public sector, the state is still failing to create nearly
enough opportunities for the unemployed. Some 30,000 people applied in
the last round of job openings at Gafsa for just 2,700 jobs, said Kamel
Ben Naceur, minister of industry, energy and mines.
Each round of hiring incites a bout of new unrest from those not
selected. “This is a conservative society, and youngsters do not listen
to their elders anymore, and they react because they have reached
complete despair,” said Najib Mabrouki, 51, a representative of the
local labor union.
The same complaints that compelled the revolt against the dictatorship —
of poverty and pollution, a lack of basic services like electricity and
clean water, and corruption in parceling out coveted jobs — continue to
animate the protests against Tunisia’s new technocratic government,
which took over in January.
In Moulares, wagons filled with mounds of gray silt stand abandoned amid
weeds on train tracks, and the factory siren blares over an empty
washing plant. Workers and their families have forsaken their bonuses to
join the protests of the unemployed.
“There is no social justice,” said Mohammad Nasir Saidi, who lives near
the blockaded train tracks. He lost his job when the foreign mining
company he worked for closed because of the unrest, yet he directs his
anger at the government. “They are stealing our natural resources, and
they are not helping us. They do not care about the people.”
A small crowd of men in their 20s and 30s gathered around him. All said
they were jobless.
“The revolution started here in 2008 in Moulares and Redeyef, and we are
still living the revolution, protesting and chanting slogans,” said one
of the men, Hatem Behmida.
Tunisia has already seen firsthand the dangers of such disaffection.
During the protest here in 2008, the government under Mr. Ben Ali
reacted with harsh repression, detentions and torture: Three people died
in the clashes, dozens more were injured, and the protest leaders were
given heavy prison sentences.
Mohamed Néjib Mrabet, a mining engineer, said, “2008 was revelatory as
to the social discontent of the whole population.” Mr. Mrabet last year
became chairman of the mostly state-owned Gafsa Phosphate Company, which
— together with a sister chemical company — directly or indirectly
employs about 27,000 people.
“It was very violent, the revolution,” he recalled. “They had
practically been slaves since the French colonial period. It was revenge
Two years later, during the Arab Spring revolt, the people here again
took to the streets and chased the police and officials from their
towns. But the overthrow of Mr. Ben Ali, they say, has changed little,
including the strikes and blockades that threaten to cripple the
phosphate mines — and Tunisia’s struggling economy along with it.
Once a market leader, Tunisia has seen phosphate production slump to a
third of pre-revolution volumes, and business has shifted to regional
competitors. The loss of revenue has amounted to three billion Tunisian
dinars, or nearly $2 billion, said Mr. Naceur, the mining minister.
Even as the protests undercut the company’s performance, leaders of the
revolt complain that the government has been too immersed in politics
and has ignored the people’s needs.
“The revolution lost its way,” said Tarek Halimi, 49, one of the leaders
of the 2008 protest movement in Redeyef. “And it is not yet on the right
path because the demands were mainly social and economic.”
He criticized the government job programs as meaningless tinkering in
the face of deteriorating health and living standards. “With billions of
dollars you get 10 or 20 trees and an amateur soccer team starting? It
is not serious,” he said.
Families live in homes made of concrete breeze blocks beneath yellow
slag heaps. A sulfurous drain from the washing plant overflows down the
main street, the liquid pooling in front of the primary school gates.
Residents said that they had been complaining about the overflow since
2008, but that nothing had been done about it.
In the fall of 2012, frustrations turned violent, and a mob burned the
phosphate company’s administration building in Moulares.
“It is people who spent four years waiting, and all they have is hope,”
Hassen Mabrouki, 38, explained as he walked through the gutted building.
He won a job in one of the hiring rounds, but joins the peaceful
protests in solidarity. “They got promises that have never been
fulfilled, and they cannot understand what is happening,” he said.
In a cafe across the road, Anwar Leki, 24, wipes tables with pent-up
anger. The son of an invalided miner, he has 12 brothers, some of them
graduates, but none of them secured a job in three rounds of hiring.
“We have this phosphate powder everywhere. It comes into the house,” he
said. “I earn six dinars ($3.75) a day. I finished high school but could
not afford to go to university. You see all this and you have pain in
your heart and you cannot even express yourself.”
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