Two men were killed after a workplace accident on November 27 in Tkibuli town, in Georgia’s western Imereti region. The men were trapped under a landslide that came down on them when they worked to fortify an artisanal coal mine in the area.
Rescuers recovered the body of one of the workers, aged around 50, at the scene on the day of the accident. Another man, 65-year old Vitali Turdzeladze was found alive. He was transferred to a hospital in Kutaisi where he died early on November 29 morning.
According to Georgia’s Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers Trade Union, the operation of artisanal mines in Tkibuli are banned by Labour Inspection Office as they fail to meet even the minimum requirements of the labor safety standards.
The exact cause of the accident is not yet known. The Interior Ministry has confirmed to Civil.ge, they launched an investigation into the accident under Article 240 of the Criminal Code – breach of safety regulations during mining, construction, or other works.
Responding to the accident, Georgian Trade Unions’ Confederation on November 29 voiced concern the authorities are not able to implement existing labor safety regulations in all regions of Georgia, and that the rules may be selectively enforced with companies. The GTUC called on the Government to implement the rules appropriately, without showing any tolerance to companies that violate their obligations.
Noting that the high unemployment rate forces citizens to risk their life for income, the GTUC also urged the authorities to prioritize creating alternative employment programs for Tkibuli residents. It also pointed out that as a party to Paris Climate Agreement, Georgia has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and would need to minimize and phase out coal mining.
Speaking with Formula TV, GTUC Chair Irakli Petriashvili on November 28 described the situation in Tkibuli artisanal mines as “tragic,” as they are not operated by companies or registered legal entities. This makes it difficult to identify who is responsible for and behind the privately-owned artisanal mines, Petriashvili explained.
He held the Government responsible for “allowing in one form or another, openly or covertly” for the artisanal mines to continue operating.