The owner of a mining company and mining permit holder appeared before a court in central Turkey yesterday over the deaths of 18 miners last year in a flooded mine. Both defendants denied knowledge of the risk of flooding in the mine and blamed the staff, including engineers in the mine for not informing them.
The trial of the defendants began in Ermenek, a coal hub in central Turkey where the bodies of 18 miners were recovered more than one month after the mine they worked in flooded. The cause of the accident was blamed on a private-run company continuing to extract coal despite the site being adjacent to an old mine filled with groundwater.
The first hearing of the trial was held on Monday with 16 defendants including company owner Saffet Uyar, mining permit holder Abdullah Özbey and engineering supervisor Ali Kurt attending. Other defendants were released pending trial earlier.
Uyar and Özbey, who face charges of causing death due to criminal negligence, testified yesterday and denied they were aware of risks involving the old mine.
Saffet Uyar said he never thought the workers would reach the site of the old mine while extracting coal. He claimed that he sought a map of the old mine so as to prevent workers from approaching the site, but the map was missing. He added that nobody, including engineers and other technical staff in the mine told him that he could find the map in the archives of a state agency monitoring the operations of mines. "I don't know how workers reached (to the spot where an outburst of water occurred). It might be that engineers and foremen misled us," he said. Uyar said he did not step into the shaft for two years.
Abdullah Özbey, who holds the mining permit for the mine, denied the charges he was facing and said the company that rented the mining site was chiefly responsible for the operation of the mine. He said he was unaware of a previous accident in the mine. He claimed engineers did not inform them about the accident and that he would not know about last year's fatal incident if there weren't fatalities. Like Uyar, Özbey said, he never stepped into the mine.