Ermenek High Criminal Court began hearing the trial on Monday concerning the Ermenek mine accident which left 18 workers died on October 28, 2014, in Turkey’s central Anatolian province of Karaman.
The indictment was read by the prosecutors and specified 62 plaintiffs and 16 suspects - including the mining company’s owner Saffet Uyar, mining permit holder Abdullah Ozbey, and operating manager Ali Kurt - who were arrested on November 11, 2014.
According to the indictment prepared by The Ermenek Public Prosecutor’s Office, the 16 suspects are accused of “conscious negligent homicide,” due to the mining company allegedly acting against regulations and the forgery of private documents.
During the trial, families of the miners intervened often as the indictment was being read and tensions were raised by the plaintiffs’ verbal attacks on the suspects.
In Ermenek, eighteen miners were killed after they were trapped metres below the surface following a flood from an adjacent mine which quickly filled the mine’s galleries.
According to a report prepared by a team of mining experts on the incident, drilling was being conducted only three metres from the wastewater that had accumulated in an underground reservoir, rather than at a required distance of 25 metres. The reservoir was then breached causing the water to flood the mine.
The pipes used for draining water from the mine were not installed properly and the galleries, stairs and retaining walls of the mine collapsed as a result of improper construction, experts discovered.
Furthermore, the movement of workers during the disaster revealed how unprepared they were for such an emergency.
“Their location shows they were heading to the main entrance and perceived safe areas instead of the proper emergency exits. This reaction must be linked to the lack of emergency drills in the mine,” the report said.
The Ermenek mine accident came just six months after three-hundred-and-one miners lost their lives when a fire broke out while they were working at a mine in Soma in the Aegean region on May 13, 2014. It was the deadliest mining disaster in Turkish history.
The trial concerning the Soma mine disaster is also being held today in Akhisar, a district in Turkey’s western province of Manisa.
The trial has been postponed until Tuesday to allow the defendants to obtain separate lawyers.
The ruling from the court came after the plaintiffs’ lawyers claimed that one attorney could not represent the defendants responsible for workplace safety because of an apparent conflict of interest.