The Eynez coal mine in Soma, Manisa Province, Turkey, saw one of the world’s worst mining disasters on 13 May 2014 following an explosion. The total number of casualties from the incident was estimated at 282 the following day and is expected to rise further.
The mine is operated by Soma Kömür İşletmeleri, a subsidiary of Soma Holdings, and has a workforce of around 5,550, including 5,000 underground workers and a technical team comprising 130 engineers.
Details of Turkey’s Eynez coal mine disaster
Soma Kömür İşletmeleri’s website and a press release by the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey (AFAD) reported that it was induced by a transformer explosion, leading to a fire within the underground mine. The report also mentions that 363 miners have been rescued and more than 150 people have yet to be located, making it one of the world’s worst coal mining disasters.
The tragedy occurred during a shift change at the mine, when approximately 800 people were present at the site. The miners are trapped at depths of approximately 2,000m below the surface.
Protests from a number of labour unions followed the disaster, calling a one-day nationwide strike the next day. Anger is directed at the current government Justice and Development Party (AKP) for privatising mining operations and for rejecting a Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) proposal submitted to the Parliament in 2013 to investigate work-related accidents at coal mines in Soma.
Details of the Turkish coal mine in Soma
Soma Holdings started mining operations at Soma in 1984. The coal mining area within Soma covers 18,000ha and is estimated to hold around 205 million tonnes of lignite reserves, with only a minimum of the reserves possessing a heat content of more than 3,000kcal/kg.
General Directorate of the Turkish Coal Enterprises’ (TKİ) contract offer to produce 15 million tonnes of coal reserves within the Soma Eynez region was transferred from Cinar Group to Soma Kömür İşletmeleri’s in September 2009. Soma Kömür İşletmeleri started operating the new coal mine with a production capacity of 2.5 million tonnes per annum.
Lignite produced from the mine is purchased by TKI to power the neighbouring Soma Thermal Power Plant.
A 510MW coal-based thermal power plant, known as the Soma Kolin Thermal Power Plant, is currently being constructed by HİDRO-GEN Enerji İthalat İhracat Dağıtım ve Ticaret. The new plant will be fed by Eynez and other coal mines in Soma when it comes online in April 2017.
Demand for coal from Turkey’s energy sector
Located in the Usak province of Turkey, it is 100% owned and operated by Tuprag Metal Madencilik Sanayi ve Ticaret.
Turkey’s target to produce 100 billion megawatt hours energy per year by 2023 includes 30% from coal-based power plants. The country has an estimated coal reserve of 15.4 billion tonnes, with 14.1 billion tonnes being lignite.
Coal-based thermal power plants account for 13% of the country’s total installed power, which currently stands at 64,044MW. Of the total electricity produced from coal, 57% comes from domestic lignite coal.
Soma Kömür İşletmeleri’s coal mining operations
The contract for the operation of the Zonguldak Bağlık-İnağzı field in Turkey was awarded to Soma Kömür İşletmeleri by Turkish Coal Corporation (TTK) in October 2011. The Zonguldak basin is estimated to hold 1.316 billion tonnes of hard coal.
Soma Kömür İşletmeleri is currently carrying out the studies for the Zonguldak Bağlık-İnağzı project, which is expected to generate 3,000 jobs and initially produce two million tonnes of coal annually. The company estimates the development cost of the coal field to reach $200m.