During the methane explosion at the "Komsomolyets" mine in Kemerovo province 12 people were killed. This tragedy occurred soon after another terrible tragedy in the Donbass in the Ukraine. Not surprisingly, with each year tons of coal are obtained at the cost of yet more blood. The equipment is old. Constant cost-cutting leads to a deterioration of conditions in the mines, that lead to explosions and fires breaking out. The sharp fall in the quality of life and the growth of unemployment are forcing the workers to descend every day into the pits and to work on unventilated coal-faces in conditions where their very lives are at risk.
We give below figures on the number of Donyets miners killed during the last decade:
- 2000 (11th March) Barakova mine (Luganskaya province) - 80 killed
- 1999 Zasyadko mine (Donyetsk) - 50 killed
- 1999 Kirova mine (amalgamated "Lugansk Coal") - 6 killed
- 1998 XIX Parts'yezda mine (Luganskaya province) - 24 killed
- 1998 Skochinskovo mine (Donyetsk) - 63 killed
- 1994 Slavyannoserbskaya mine (Luganskaya province) - 27 killed
- 1992 Yuzhnodonbasskaya mine N1 mine (Donyetskaya province) - 32 killed
- 1991 Sukhodolskaya-Vostochnaya mine (Luganskaya province) - 61 killed
- 1979 Gornaya mine (Luganskaya province) - 64 killed
- 1979 Molodogvardyeyskaya mine (Luganskaya province) - 67 killed
What is striking about these statistics is that during the last 3 years, in the large-scale catastrophes in the Donbass mines, as many miners perished as in the preceeding decade. If we bring together each particular accident the situation looks even worse.
Since the last time we addressed this question (also in connection with a series of tragedies) in the article "Conveyor of Death", the situation not only has not improved, but has deteriorated. The World Bank makes easy money from the closure of mines, which are sometimes termed "Russia's Reconstructed Coal Industry". In reality there is no "reconstruction" and it is all very suspicious to say the least. In any case, after carrying out its "projects", there remain only extinct mining settlements, 80% of whose population are unemployed. Of course, under these conditions every miner clings to his pit with both arms, and the mine itself tries to remain profitable at any price - even at the cost of risking people's lives. And it goes without saying that safety measures are below standard.
This, however, does not apply solely to Russian coal mines. Transnational corporations have decided to free themselves of the burden of Russian coal-mining. Competition from dirt-cheap open cast mining in Equatorial Africa is step by step turning Russian mining into a wasteland. From one of the most highly paid sections of the working class the miners, little by little, are being transformed into low paid outcasts. Their already short life expectancy has begun to fall. Almost in passing it has been decided to annihilate them. Then the closure of unprofitable enterprises will be possible without any special problems. It is understood that in backward countries like Russia, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan these processes are assuming especially brutal and savage forms.
In the struggle against the forces of the world market, miners today have only one card to play: their unity. It is impossible to resist the all-destructive force of the market except by struggling to destroy that very market. Of course, together with the whole capitalist system.
Article translated from the April 2000 edition of the Russian Marxist Paper Workers' Democracy