A miner died in a coal shaft in the central Georgian mining town of Tkibuli on 27 October. The shaft collapsed again the following day during an inspection by the Ministry of Labour.
Davit Porchkhidze, 50, was working in the underground shaft when it collapsed, leaving him under the rubble, according to the mining company, Saknakhshiri.
On 28 October, as labour inspectors launched an examination of the scene, the shaft again collapsed. No one was injured but the ministry has recommended the mine be shut down; only clean-up and repair work will be allowed until the reasons for the collapse are identified.
Police have opened an investigation for possible criminal violations of safety rules.
‘The investigation [usually] takes a long time. The creation of an effective labour inspection, which has remained as an unfulfilled idea, must be accelerated’, Raisa Liparteliani, head of the the legal department of the Georgian Trade Union Confederation, an umbrella group the country’s biggest unions told Imedi TV.
[Read on OC Media: Fatal workplace accidents show ‘need for labour inspection reform’]
On 28 October, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development said ‘according to our preliminary conclusions, signs of labour safety violations are visible’.
The incident comes five months after four miners died in the same coal shaft. The four local men were trying to repair a lift in the shaft when it collapsed on 9 May for ‘unknown reasons’.
[Read on OC Media: Protesters clash with police after 4 miners die in coal shaft]
Saknakhshiri, which employs roughly 1,500 workers, mostly local residents of Tkibuli, is part of the Georgian Industrial Group (GIG), a company with operations in energy, natural gas, and real estate.
Miners in Tkibuli went on strike in February 2016, claiming they were routinely locked in the mines and forced to work in harsh conditions. The strike ended after two weeks when an agreement was reached with GIG on a gradual 10% pay rise.
[Read on OC Media: Labour rights are back on the radar in Georgia [Analysis]]