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Over 200 dead in Turkey coal mine explosion

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World Coal,

An explosion at a Turkish coal mine has killed at least 201 people after an electrical fault triggered an explosion. Hundreds more remain underground with hopes for their survival dwindling.

Time running out for those trapped in the coal mine

“Time is working against us; as time passes our problems are becoming severe and the number of dead increases,” Taner Yildiz, the Turkish energy minister is reported to have told journalists at the site of the mine. “There were 787 miners when the accident occurred, 363 of them have been evacuated or walked out themselves so far.”

The BBC has reported that those trapped are 2 km from the surface and 4 km from the mine’s entrance.

The mine in the Soma region of western Turkey produces lignite for a nearby power plant.

Turkish coal mines: a history of accidents

Safety at Turkish coal mines has long been a subject of controversy with more than 100 miners killed since 2003. Opposition groups recently requested an inquiry with a local MP, Ozgur Ozel, saying he was “sick of attending the funerals of dead miners”.

The request was denied by the government, which has not always been seen as sympathetic to the plight of miners. In 2010, after the death of 28 miners in Zonguldak on Turkey’s Black Sea Coast, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that such events were part of the “fate” of miners – remarks that prompted protests in the town.

Turkey’s biggest coal miner disaster happened in 1992 when 263 miners were killed in a gas explosion in Kozlu in the northwest of the country.

More coal needed

Lignite is Turkey’s most abundant indigenous energy source with reserves totaling 9837 million t, according to EURACOAL. The government has recently signaled a desire to make greater use its lignite after a decade of rising energy use was fueled by imported natural gas. Earlier this month, Yildiz confirmed discussions between Turkey and China over potential US$10 – 12 billion investment in the country’s coal industry.  

Image courtesy of Associated Press

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