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The Town of Death

Sunday, 13 February 2022 18:36 hits 207 times
Guram Gamezardashvili, father of the deceased miner, Pavle Gamezardashvili
Society
Guram Gamezardashvili, father of the deceased miner, Pavle Gamezardashvili

The youngest was 24 years old; the oldest was 72. The stories from a small, grey town only spread to the entire country if a tragedy strikes. It takes only a couple of days for Tkibuli and Georgia to get back to everyday life. The life that prepares new misfortunes for them. Many have injured and escaped death but still return to mines to meet death again. 

"Mtis Ambebi" collected everyone's story together.

May 3, 2007 - One miner was killed:

  1. Temur Tsirekidze - 35 years old;

The first shift arrived in the Dzidziguri mine in the morning. Temur Tsirekidze fell on his leg and hit the wall. The high voltage line running through the wall was not bundled. Electricity struck and killed him there. His wife and two young children survive the deceased miner.

December 2009 – 1 miner injured, 1 killed:

  1. Rajden Bochorishvili - 48 years old;

One person was killed when a protective dam collapsed in the Mindeli mine. Shavleg Vardosanidze, 32, working with Rajden Bochorishvili, was seriously injured.

March 2, 2010 - 1 injured, 4 killed:

  1. Murman Kublashvili - 28 years old;
  2. Giorgi Bregadze - 53 years old;
  3. Mizdon Oniani - 66 years old;
  4. Jemal Jishiashvili, 72 years old;

The explosion happened shortly after 10:20 p.m. in the Mindell mine. The only person who survived the third shift was 37-year-old Beso Zosiashvili.

Prime Minister Nika Gilauri, who arrived in Tkibuli the same day, promised that a government commission would investigate the cause of the explosion. President Saakashvili declared March 4 a day of mourning in Georgia.

"My son and I have never been together in one shift. Anyway, I had to be in the mine that day. I worked as a shift chief in another brigade. When I heard the sound of the explosion, I knew my son was in ruins, but even if he was not, we should save whoever was injured.

I went and heard the sound of the last breath. Someone was dying. The boy was hanging by his legs. He had a damaged head. I came close and could not recognize him. His face and body were burnt from the blast. I shook your hand, "Beso, is that you?" He held my hand tightly. He realized someone had come to his rescue.

We brought it out. I was going to turn back to help others, but I was told there was no chance for them. Doctors in Kutaisi saved my son. He was connected to the device for 27 days," Demur Zosiashvili worked in the mine for 50 years. Once a powerful explosion followed him, he barely survived. "If it were not for the mine, Tkibuli would have died. No other jobs. "As soon as my son got up, he returned to the mine a month later."

A government commission has not been set up to investigate the cause of the tragedy. A special commission was set up by the Georgian Industrial Group (GIG), which has owned the Tkibuli shafts (Saknakhshiri Ltd) for 45 years since 2006. The commission wrote in its conclusion that the explosion was caused by the negligence of the miners - "the ventilation of the damaged tunnel started in the conditions of faulty, covered electrical equipment, which caused a spark. This caused the methane to ignite in the electrical area. Methane exploded as a result of the flames. "

Davit Bezhuashvili, General Director of Georgian Industrial Group Ltd., is Gela Bezhuashvili's brother. Gela Bezhuashvili held senior positions in the Georgian government - Minister of Defense in 2004, Secretary of the National Security Council in 2004-2005, Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2005-2008. Davit Bezhuashvili himself was a non-permanent member of parliament from 1999 to 2016, first from the Citizens' Union, then from the National Movement, under the mandate of Tetritskaro majoritarian MP. A 100% stake in Georgian Industrial Group was owned by "Chemexim International 735", registered in the Marshall Islands.

In about six months, the explosion was repeated, again in the Mindell mine.

August 26, 2010 - 6 injured, 4 killed:

  1. Lasha Bochorishvili - 24 years old;
  2. Malkhaz Chanturidze - 43 years old;
  3. Paata Modebadze - 49 years old;
  4. Ioseb Oboladze - 51 years old;

Gia Oboladze, 49, needed a leg amputation from the injury. Miners were treated at the hospital with burns of various severity for almost 2 months, 27-year-old Levan Kurtsikidze for a more extended period.

The day after the explosion, President Mikheil Saakashvili arrived in Tkibuli and said he would "instruct the government to ensure that security inspectors regularly work here."

January 22, 2011 - 4 injured, 1 killed:

  1. Merab Kalandadze - 37 years old;

The blast occurred at around 1 p.m. Vitali Turdziladze, 54, received 60% burns on his body, but survived. Merab Oboladze, 51, Mamuli Kublashvili, 60, and Nugzar Javakhadze, 67, were slightly injured.

The Technical and Construction Inspection of the Ministry of Economy concluded that the accident was caused by a high concentration of methane and improperly produced explosive works.

"As far as I know, all the evidence is that the last blast (August 26, 2010), which killed several miners, was not the result of their negligence but of the mine management itself, which turned off the ventilation system and killed its employees. They saved money at the expense of life. I regret that this criminal case has not concluded that certain people should be held accountable and specific people should be sent to court. If the court finds out, then in jail - if that had been the case, yesterday's explosion might not have happened. The latest explosion case will be investigated by serious people, including those invited from abroad and not those who sit in Tbilisi and take money from the owners of Tkibuli and therefore have no problem recording a thousand nonsense and lies," President Saakashvili told reporters on January 22.

September 9, 2011 - 1 miner was killed:

  1. Temur Gabriadze - 35 years old;

According to official information, a planned explosion was prepared in the Mindeli mine to extract the ore. However, the blast was delayed, due to which one of the miners, Temur Gabriadze, turned back to understand the reason. The explosion struck shortly afternoon. The miner was killed. His wife and 4-year-old son survive Temur Gabriadze.

November 6, 2011 - 3 miners were killed:

  1. Tamaz Gordadze - 54 years old;
  2. Bondo Mikheladze - 61 years old;

The roof collapsed while extracting coal in one of the areas of the Mindeli mine.

Exactly 19 days later, the ceiling in the same shaft collapsed again.

November 25, 2011 - 1 injured, 1 killed:

  1. Sergi Ashotia - 50 years old;

The unions and the administration of "Saknakhshiri Ltd" agreed to launch a new insurance program that would cover 5 deaths a year. The program also included the families of those who died in the Mindell mine on November 6, 2011. Each family received GEL 35,000 from the insurance company.

The ceiling in the Mindell mine also collapsed on January 7, 2012. Injured 2 miners who were destroying coal. Among them 30-year-old Giorgi Managadze seriously. His spine was injured, and he is still using a wheelchair.

October 13, 2013 - 1 injured, 1 killed:

  1. Levan Neparidze - 35 years old;

At the sixth mining site of the Mindeli mine, the roof collapsed again, and two miners were killed. Levan Neparidze, a resident of the village of Khresili, was dead.

January 28, 2014 - 1 miner was killed:

  1. Tariel Kasrashvili - 50 years old;

Tariel Kasrashvili, Deputy Director of Production, who had 30 years of experience working in the mine, was trapped between the wagons and received life-threatening injuries.

February 22, 2015 - 1 miner was killed:

  1. Kote Bakhutashvili - 54 years old;

The miner was found dead in the Mindel mine between the locomotive and the tunnel fortification.

October 7, 2016 - 1 miner was killed:

  1. Temur Kakauridze - 51 years old;

According to the employees of Saknakhshiri, Temur Kakauridze was allegedly suffocated from carbon dioxide, after which he fell and received severe injuries to his nose and forehead. The body was found in the Mindel shaft by morning shift workers.

May 9, 2017 - 4 miners were killed:

  1. Aleko Chelishvili - 45 years old;
  2. Gizo Kublashvili - 55 years old;
  3. Gizo Gubelidze - 56 years old;
  4. Victor Dagundaridze - 57 years old;

The miners were changing the rope of a coal extraction device in the Mindell mine, at which point the hoist was cut off. As a result, the miners of the mine lift fell from a height of 400 meters. Rescuers removed the bodies of all four after several hours of rescue operations.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said that the labor inspectorate in the country has already been set up and maybe activated.

"Everything that will be done within the investigation framework will be transparent and clear. All people whose contribution will be confirmed will be punished," - promised Giorgi Gakharia, the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development.

October 27, 2017 - 1 miner was killed:

  1. Davit Porchkhidze - 50 years old;

A mountain mass collapsed during underground works in one of the areas of the Mindeli mine. As a result, the driver of the 6th precinct was killed.

April 5, 2018 - 3 injured, 6 killed:

  1. Pavle Gamezardashvili - 25 years old;
  2. Giorgi Bochorishvili - 28 years old;
  3. Mirza Kurtsikidze - 46 years old;
  4. Besik Gurgenidze - 49 years old;
  5. Elguja Bochorishvili - 51 years old;
  6. Gogi Rafava - 58 years old;

 Giorgi, 28, father of three.

"You could hardly see where the body parts were, and it was dismembered. They brought us a sack. We have not seen our child. He had no left hand. They were looking for a week. They dug everything in the mine and found it on Tuesday, the funeral day. They brought him to the cemetery and then buried him"

28-year-old Giorgi Bochorishvili, along with five miners, also died in the Mindeli mine in Tkibuli.

"I heard crying from the first floor near the dawn. My daughter-in-law had a baby clutched to her chest and crying. I asked if anything had happened to Giorgi, and she nodded. I don't remember what happened next - remembers Ludmila Bochorishvili, his mother. Giorgi was 20 when he started working in a mine.

"The family needed more money after the first child was born. Only my husband was working back then, and his salary was not enough. So Giorgi decided to work in mine too. He was the leading hewer for seven years, and his brigade used to extract more coal than planned. However, that site was closed during Soviet time. My husband, an experienced miner, told me the place was packed with gas and should not be opened, but they were still using it. 

Jondo Bochorishvili, Giorgi's father, worked in mines for 33 years. He narrowly escaped death on three occasions. 

"Once I was caught by the explosion, twice I managed to leave the place seconds before. Giorgi knew that but still decided to work there. He should support his three children."

Pavle, 25 - from school to the mine

On April 5, 2018, Pavle was the youngest among the dead in the Mindell mine explosion. In 2010, Pavle's father, Guram Gamezardashvili, was seriously injured in a mine. A boulder fell on his left foot during the coal demolition. After several surgeries, he manages to move with crutches. Pavle was then 18 years old, a 12th grader. He left school to help his family and went to the mine. He also enrolled in Tkibuli vocational school and connected his future with the mine. Worked for eight years. Pavle's older brothers, Mirza and Goderdzi, also worked in the mines - mining is their family profession.

After Paul's death, Mirza stopped coming to the mine - he was the only one who refused to go to the mine after six people died at the same time: "Where my brother and those boys died, I could not go and work there every day. I tried everything, trade, minibus, but nothing came out. Too many families have borrowed from the bank. We are somehow bound. If this mine stops, the already dead city will die altogether. The shops are working on debts. When wages are paid in the mine, we deliver the debt; then, we will borrow the product again. "

2018 was the most brutal year for Tkibuli. Twelve miners lost their lives. 

June 2, 2018 - 2 miners were killed:

  1. Sandro Butskhrikidze - 27 years old;
  2. Revaz Lomtadze - 56 years old;

At 8 a.m., Sandro Butskhrikidze and Revaz Lomtadze died in a makeshift 35-meter shaft operated by individual entrepreneur Davit Sofromadze within the framework of the "Saknakhshiri" license. Both were blown out of the air.

Sandro Butskhrikidze was an actor at the Tkibuli Theater. Worked for a local Red Cross organization. He helped socially vulnerable and lonely people living in Tkibuli. Free food for the elderly was brought home from the free canteen. He taught children to play folk instruments. He was interested in mountain tourism.

On June 14, the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, awarded Sandro Butskhrikidze with the Order of Honor.

Since 2015, "Saknakhshiri" has signed subcontract agreements with 23 entities (3 legal entities and 20 individual entrepreneurs). Under the contract, "Saknakhshiri" allowed them to extract coal from the company's licensed territory because only the licensee would be able to purchase ore from them. Miners were paid 20 GEL for one ton of coal mined in makeshift mines, while "Saknakhshiri" bought a ton for 50 GEL from a licensee. It was cheaper for the company to extract coal on a homemade basis than the mine. The term of such contracts expired on June 30, 2018; however, after the deaths of Sandro Butskhrikidze and Revaz Lomtadze, the quarries were inspected by the Department of Labor Inspection, National Agency for Technical and Construction Supervision, and the entrails. State agencies surveyed a total of 11 quarry activities. It was proven that coal was mined at the expense of miners' health and lives. Artisanal enterprises employed more than 150 miners. None of them had a labor contract or insurance. The primary labor safety conditions were not observed - there was not even ventilation. After June 30, 2018, when the contracts expired, none of the arrangements for home procurement were concluded.

July 16, 2018 - 6 injured, 4 killed:

  1. Lasha Porchkhidze - 30 years old;
  2. Mikheil Gamezardashvili - 55 years old;
  3. Ioseb Karkashadze - 57 years old;
  4. Murman Liluashvili - 57 years old;

In one of the tunnels in the Mindell mine, the ceiling collapsed at 5 a.m. due to a methane explosion. The youngest of the dead was Lasha Porchkhidze. He had five years of experience working in the mine - at first, he was employed in reinforcement works, and he was paid about 800 GEL. He spent the last year in the coal mining brigade to increase pay. He lived in Tkibuli with his old grandmother.

During the explosion on July 16, 6 miners were seriously injured - Nodar Jishiashvili, 23, Giorgi Abuladze, 30, Mikheil Arabidze, Givi Mikiashvili, Mamuka Sofromadze, 35, and Davit Bochorishvili, 53.

According to Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, July 16 was declared a day of mourning, and the Mindeli mine was temporarily closed. The head of government promised that work on the mine would not be resumed until the investigation was completed. International engineering experts have studied the security situation: "We can not put anything above human life and safety." The miners were promised that during this period, they would typically receive their salaries:

On the same day, the Georgian Industrial Group expressed its readiness to transfer "Saknakhshiri," a subsidiary, to the state free of charge. The company has been doing everything to improve safety systems in recent years. Still, due to the specifics of the Tkibuli mines, "Saknakhshiri" could not find an engineering solution that would make coal mining completely safe. "Despite the significant expenses incurred during the last 12 years, we are ready to transfer the company "Saknakhshiri" to the state."

Until the operation of the Mindeli mine was stopped, the miners were not paid the promised salary several times. Dozens of miners entered the mine and, in protest, refused to come out - demanding pay and continued work. Coal mining resumed in November 2019. Before that, at the end of September, the owner of Saknakhshiri Ltd was changed and became a 100% owner of Steel International Trading Company Ltd. The owner of this company is Giorgi Chelidze. According to the Entrepreneurial Register, Chelidze is associated with 18 companies. He is also the director of Georgia Terminal Service Ltd., founded in 2019, owned by Georgian Manganese Ltd., which has a 40-year license to extract manganese in the Chiatura and Sachkhere areas of 16,430 hectares.

May 27, 2019 - 1 miner was killed:

  1. Nugzar Khvadagiani - 55 years old;

In Tkibuli, land collapsed on one of the coal mining quarries, and 55-year-old Nugzar Khvadagiani was killed. According to "Saknakhshiri," Khvadagiani was their employee. However, the company stopped mining in the region after July 16, 2018, and in open quarries, the unauthorized intrusion was recorded by their former contractors.

November 27, 2021 - 2 miners were killed:

  1. Avtandil Arsenidze - 50 years old;
  2. Vitali Turdziladze - 65 years old;

In Tkibuli, near Jalaghania Street, land collapsed on one of the open-pit quarries. Rescuers rescued Vitali Turdziladze, buried underground, while the other miner Avtandil Arsenidze, who was with him, was found dead. Turdziladze died the next day in Kutaisi hospital.

"My husband worked there because of hardship. Before that, he was an employee of Saknakhshiri. He was seriously injured in 2011, with almost 80% of his body burned. The company paid 160 GEL every month. Then we stopped this help and only pension was left. Work on the quarry was also stopped. No coal was mined, but it was said it would be renewed soon, and they were preparing, cleaning. This case happened at the same time," said Marina Turdziladze, the deceased's wife.

January 30, 2022 - 8 injured, 1 killed:

  1. Chabuka Sofromadze - 52 years old;

The explosion struck shortly afternoon in front of a Mindel mine. One of the nine injured, Chabuka Sofromadze, died in Tkibuli hospital. Eight miners - Amiran Court - 65 years old, Zviad Diasamidze - 35 years old, Gia Arabidze - 38 years old, Irakli Kirkitadze - 41 years old, Gela Gurgenidze - 54 years old, Shavleg Vardosanidze - (seriously injured in 2009), Tornike Javakhidze - 26 years old and Merab Gabriadze - The 41-year-old was taken to the Burn Center in Tbilisi the same night. Their lives are no longer in danger.

According to a statement issued by Saknakhshiri on February 8, on January 30, the explosion was the fault of the miners. According to the company, these are the preliminary results of the research of the special commission created by them.

On January 31, "Mtis Ambebi" requested public information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs about the Tkibuli mines and quarries. Cases of injuries and deaths have been investigated since 2006—the outcome of the investigation and who has been prosecuted. Unfortunately, we have not received public information from the Ministry so far.

In most cases, Saknakhshiri and its special commissions attribute the deaths and injuries of people in the mine to the miners' negligence. In such a conclusion, the deceased's family is not even given life insurance valued at 35 thousand GEL.

The only exceptions are the cases that occurred on April 5 and June 2, 2018, when the Ministry of Internal Affairs arrested seven people - Akaki Akhvlediani, the director of the Mindeli mine, Gizo Kirkitadze, the chief engineer of the same mine, Mamuli Kublashvili, the manager of the mine, Tariel Abesadze, the head of the extraction site, deputy chief Gocha Kasrashvili, and Davit Sopromadze, owner of the makeshift shaft near Jalagania Street. They were soon released. A few months later, the parents of 28-year-old Giorgi Bochorishvili, who died on April 5, demanded that the accused be punished. The family was told that if they did not agree to release the accused, the company would no longer sign a new contract with them, which it enters into each year, and the children of the deceased miner are given a monthly allowance of 150 GEL. In this way, this family also agreed. George has three small children left, and his wife is also unemployed.

"Mtis Ambebi" continues to prepare reports about Tkibuli to inform better and show the readers the lives of miners, coal production and safety problems, the economic opportunity of Tkibuli, or any other topic that is relevant for the municipality and its residents today.

Gela Mtivlishvili

Editor at mtisambebi.ge, a lawyer by education. Gela works on topics related to human rights, ethnic minorities, conflict zones and terrorism. E-mail: Mtivlishvili@gmail.com

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