Turkish miner: We go underground everyday thinking we will never make it back home

A Turkish miner has said that miners across the country descend hundreds of meters into the earth thinking they can die any moment. In remarks made on Dec. 4 International Miners’ Day, Halil İbrahim said that every miner says “good bye” to their loved ones before leaving the house as if they “will never make it back.”

Osman Çaklı / DUVAR

December 4 is International Miners' Day, a day to recognize and appreciate thousands of people who work in mines.

Turkey has a poor mining safety record, particularly in its coal mines. Hundreds of miners are killed by accidents in the industry each year.

Many Turkish miners are feeling anger towards a system that squeezes out profits at the expense of their safety.

Soma, a little mining village in western Turkey, became host to one of the greatest industrial crimes in mining history in 2014, leading to the death of 301 miners.

Gazete Duvar talked with one of the miners working in the state-owned Turkish Coal Corporation (TTK) in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak.

Halil İbrahim is in fact a graduate of labor economics but became a miner since he could not find another job. “I would not do this job if I had another option. You know about the country's economic conditions. After being unemployed for a very long time, I could not find a job in my own career lane. So, I became a miner to survive,” İbrahim said.

Following the Soma disaster, conditions in the state-run mines have been relatively improved, but the mining basin in Zonguldak is not very suitable for modernization, according to İbrahim.

Asked how he feels when he goes underground, İbrahim said that whenever miners put their working garments on, they just think one thing: “To go back up.”

İbrahim, who lost one of his fingers in a mining accident, said that such incidents are very common. He sees at least one of his colleagues going through such an accident once a week.

“We miners no longer make a big deal out of small accidents, as we are used to them. We have grown to be deaf to them, meaning we no longer pay attention to them. When my finger was cut off, I was taken outside. I was hearing voices 'There is an injury.' When others asked what happened, people were saying, 'It is not important, his finger is cut off,'” İbrahim said, indicating that they descend hundreds of meters into the earth thinking they can die any moment.

Before going to work, every miner says “good bye” to their loved ones as if they might never come back again. “When people listen to the miners' stories, they get quite sad, but this is what we go through every day,” he said.