Coal Mine Accident in Turkey and the Negatives of Coal Energy

According to news reports, an explosion and subsequent fire Tuesday in Ankara, Turkey, trapped almost 800 coal miners underground. Nearby miners and rescue crews rushed to the site. However, by Wednesday, reports indicated that at least 205 workers were killed. Authorities said that the accident was one of the most severe mining disasters in Turkey’s history. In 1992, a gas explosion claimed the lives of 263 workers in a mine located near the Black Sea.

The incident occurred during a shift change, which contributed to the large number of men in the mine. The explosion of a power distribution unit caused the problem. A fire continued burning in the mine 18 hours later. Smoke and soot are clearly visible above ground at the site. Live footage showed a crowd of hundreds cheering at the site, as some of the workers emerged covered in soot. Authorities have no information concerning the condition of those who remain buried deep below the ground. The expansive subterranean mine contains numerous tunnels, each spanning many kilometers in length.

Fresh air was being pumped into the mine as more than 400 rescue workers arrived to aid in the recovery process. Carbon monoxide poisoning was cited as the cause for the mounting death tolls. Hundreds also gathered at the hospital in Soma in hopes of learning news about loved ones who were working in the mine at the time of the accident. The mine owner, Komur Isletmeleri A.S., claimed that the site implemented the highest control and safety measures despite the situation that continues unfolding. However, mining accidents commonly occur in the country that has a history of insufficient safety conditions.

Coal serves as a nonrenewable fuel source for many around the world. Organic material decays and undergoes extreme pressure and heat. Over millions of years, this process creates coal. Retrieving the coal requires mining, transporting then cleaning the substance. The coal is then used to heat water and create steam that generates electricity. However, various stages in the process cause pollution.

Production requires massive quantities of water, which depletes habitats and resources. The water exposed to the coal during the extraction, cleaning and storage processes collects arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. The polluted waste water contaminates groundwater. Burning coal also releases greenhouse gases that contain methane and other pollutants into the atmosphere, which causes acid rain. Polluted ash particulates also enter the air and contain carbon dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

Operations additionally change ecosystems and habitats dramatically because establishing a working site requires building roads, clearing trees and removing land. Newer recycling processes incorporate coal ash into building materials that include cement. Nonetheless, the majority of ash ends up in landfills or stays in abandoned sites. These sites also contain pollutants that seep into the environment and contaminate the soil and groundwater.

Coal mine fires burn beneath the ground for centuries and cannot be extinguished due to the difficulty involved in locating the fire. When fires travel to the surface, they also contribute to terrain destruction. The land around sites may also collapse without warning. The dangers associated with working or abandoned mines prevents the possibility of animal or human existence within close proximity to sites, which causes displaced communities.

Deaths due to coal mining accidents claim the lives of thousands every year. A lack of compliance with safety regulations occur in many areas around the world and are not confined to underdeveloped countries. Mines in China, New Zealand and the United States have also experienced tragedies similar to the events occurring in Turkey.

Stacey Palmers
Stacey Palmers

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