Traumatised miners have returned to work at the Soma mine in Turkey, one week after the disaster that claimed 301 lives.
The call-to-work has caused controversy in the country, with some alleging that the miners are being forced to resume operations.
According to the Republican People’s Party (CHP ) Manisa deputy Özgür Özel, despite being affected by the mine disaster, workers were being forced to return to work at three mines operated by Soma Holding.
However, after discussions with CHP deputy head Sezgin Tanrikulu, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz and Labor Minister Faruk Çelik, Özel said that no miners would be made to go back to work; workers who refused to return to the mines would not be fired and their daily wages would not be cut.
Özel claimed that the miners are not psychologically ready to return to work, and that forcing them to do so was against Turkish and international labour laws.
Özel was quoted by Yeni Safak Gazetecilik as saying that a team of 100 miners can work in security only at the mine.
"Nobody will be forced to work beneath the ground if he does not to work. Those who accept to enter the mine will comprise of volunteers only," Özel said.
The ministry also urged miners not to return until the safety conditions were improved.
Speaking on the Turkish mine disaster at a coal mining congress, Bülent Ecevit University mining engineering department deputy head Erdogan Kaymakçi said that officials and companies failed to observe the coming disaster in Soma.
"The heating-up process, which can be called the brooding phase, was not tracked in Soma. No one can call this disaster fate," Kaymakçi said.
Chamber of Mining Engineers former head Menmet Torun said that around 400 mining facilities across Turkey pose massive safety risks.
"It has been more than one week since the Soma [disaster]. What has changed? What are the regulations to come out? They have asked nobody’s opinions," Torun said.
Other participants at the coal mine congress highlighted the mine security issues, including the lack of rescue chambers that could keep miners trapped underground safe for several days, the subcontractor-based business model, poor inspections and an absence of emergency plans.