Pits Of Death

KIEV, Ukraine -- Almost two weeks after Ukraine endured its worst mining disaster in history, two separate accidents occurred at precisely the same coal mine. As a result, the death toll at the Zasiadko mines increased by five to 106, while the number of miners who had to be hospitalized rose by 116 to 156.

Rescue workers at the Zasiadko mines

Nothing exemplifies the indifference of government officials to average Ukrainian citizens more than how they play to the interests of business tycoons, providing them with cheap, subsidized coal at the expense of people’s lives.

As standard practice in Ukraine, no causes have been determined and no one has been held responsible for the accidents.

Compensation of $20,000 for every victim’s family has been promised.

We can only hope the government keeps that promise.

The nation needs to produce more coal, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said on Dec. 3 after the repeat accidents.

He said that Ukraine has a coal deficit of 6 million tons, and the Zasiadko mines produce 3 million tons of coal a year, indicating that closing the mines would lead to huge economic problems for the country.

Now that three explosions have occurred in two weeks, the problem can’t be swept under the rug any longer.

Before any more coal is extracted, the need for industry reform is an absolute requirement. While the president and premier were correct to call for the closure of the Zasiadko mines until an expert evaluation is obtained on their condition, they have been way too slow in closing down dangerous mines in general.

Meanwhile, influential tycoons have continued to raise barriers to foreign investors, who have sought to sell safety equipment for Ukrainian mines, and introduce new technologies, such as for methane extraction from coal beds.

Such technologies could help cut down on natural gas imports into Ukraine.

But more importantly, it would help stop so many people from dying in the country’s deathtrap coal mines every year.

And if Ukraine needs to import coal, nothing is wrong, for example, in buying better quality, reasonably-priced Polish coal.

Source: Kyiv Post

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