Author: Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent scholar residing in İstanbul, with a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans and the Greater Middle East. He tweets at @theerimtanangle
On 13 May 2014, a fire broke out following an explosion in a mine located in the Soma district of Turkey’s western province of Manisa.
The mine is operated by the private company Soma Holding A.Ş, which purchased the operation following its privatization in the 1990s. Nevertheless, Turkey’s Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz took some responsibility for the disaster, expressing his apparent grief in the words that, “We are moving toward the worst mining disaster in Turkey” yet also stating that “death toll figures are not important.” This statement could be taken as an indication of his Neo-Liberal beliefs that the human costs incurred in the search for ever greater profits are negligible and even inevitable.
After all, Soma Holding is the company behind the free bags of coal distributed by the AKP (or Justice and Development Party) in the run-up to elections, as the firm has been able to decrease the cost of coal from $130-140 dollars per ton to $23.80 dollars per ton due to the royalty model introduced by the government in 2005, when 11 coal fields were offered to the private sector.