Search continues for missing miners in Oranovo

The search was continuing on July 17 for two missing miners after the fatal rockburst at Bulgaria’s Oranovo coalmine that cost two lives the previous day.

A specialist rescue team from the Bobov Dol mine worked through the night to try to reach the missing miners but was encountering extreme difficulty. They had broken through the collapsed material to try to provide an air channel but otherwise were struggling to get through the collapsed rock.

Unconfirmed media reports on July 17 said that Bulgaria’s Cabinet was to vote 10 000 leva (about 5000 euro) in compensation for the families of the two dead miners, after earlier it was announced that the relatives would get a one-off grant of 325 leva each. The families of the dead miners also are said to be eligible for an insurance payout of 50 000 leva.

The funerals of the two also are to be paid for from a state fund.

A number of questions have arisen around the state of the mine and its alleged safety failings, said to have been aggravated by continuing financial problems and to have been exposed in recent official inspections.

There have been a number of accidents at the Oranovo coalmine in recent years. Reportedly, the July 16 accident was the fifth serious accident there in six years.

The mine was visited on July 17 by Economy and Energy Minister Dragomir Stoinev and Labour and Social Policy Minister Hassen Ademov.

The Oranovo mine provides food to more than 200 families in the region and as such was essential, “but we cannot be faced with the choice, ‘life or livelihood’,” Stoinev said.

He said that the concession contract would be checked and said that by the end of the week there would be clarity on the issue. He understood that not everything was in order in regard to this contract, Stoinev said.

Ademov said that after the last check of the mine by the Labour Inspectorate in June 2013, penalties had been imposed, mainly for violations of labour and safety laws.

Prosecutors are investigating the accident. Pre-trial proceedings have been initiated.

The mine’s owner has rejected earlier reports that there was a delay of about two hours between the accident and the police being alerted. The accident was reported within 10 to 15 minutes and rescue attempts started immediately, the owner said.

Stoinev said that it was one thing to have available a rescue team made up of volunteers and quite another to have a specialist team with the necessary equipment.

Because the closest specialist rescue team was at the Bobov Dol mine 50km away, it had taken an hour for them to arrive.

The accident at the mine raised the issue of working conditions not only in Bulgaria’s mining industry but in all industries in the country, Stoinev said.

Ademov said that his ministry would prepare a package of measures on working conditions, and he called on trade unions to do their job properly and to alert government officials about inappropriate working conditions.

“Business always has turned to the state to provide good business conditions, participants in business should also be responsible towards their workers, improve working conditions, take care of their workers – not everything can be transferred to the state,” he said.

(Photo: John Nyberg/




The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage.