The local administrator of Soma, where 301 died in a mining accident last year, said efforts to create alternative occupations for miners have largely failed due to the miners' continued preference to work in the mines.
Bahattin Atçı said his office had tried to open new avenues for tourism and construction soon after the accident, but most miners who wanted his help had declined to work anywhere else but the mines. "Some attended our training courses, but most refused to actually contemplate a switch. However, there are almost no jobs in the mines in our region. We are waiting for a new mining firm to begin operations. There is also a planned thermal electric plant. However, until is built and opened, there will be an employment problem in Soma," he said.
Atçı also stressed the unemployment benefits paid to miners who lost their jobs after the closure of the Enes Mine, where last year's accident took place, would soon be cut. "Our hope is for the mine to reopen after the necessary refurbishments have been made before that happens," he said.
The Maden-İş Union Aegean regional chairman, Recep Satır, said about 1,000 of the miners unemployed after the accident had found jobs in surrounding regions, adding another 1,000 remained unemployed. "Despite the tragedy, there are many who come to Soma to find mining jobs," he said.
After the accident, significant improvements in workers' safety were introduced in the region, Satır said. "I can say the workplace environment has changed from top to bottom in the past year. For example, inspections that took place every six months before the accident now happen every second week. The pay is much better too," he added.
Satır underscored if the necessary precautions are taken, there is nothing preventing the reopening of the Eynez Mine. "The cause of the accident is still uncertain. A parliamentary research commission is said to be working on a report," he said.
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