Bulgaria’s Economy Minister Dragomir Stoynev said on August 2 that the Cabinet would review all existing mine safety regulations in the wake of the collapse of the Oranovo coalmine in southwestern Bulgaria, which left four people dead.
Two miners were found dead on the day of the accident, July 16. Earlier on August 2, after 18 days of rescue operations, the bodies of the other two miners were found in the rubble (as reported by The Sofia Globe here.)
In an address to Parliament, Stoynev said that he ordered the creation of a task force that would be asked to review and update current mine safety regulations, but said that the coalmine had been working in breach of regulations.
He said that the mine had been working without an operations plan approved by the Economy Ministry, as required by its concession contract.
Stoynev said that the authorities – including under the GERB government and the interim cabinet earlier this year – had failed to exercise proper oversight. He said that he ordered a suspension of all mining operations at Oranovo until it met all legal requirements.
“The choice between ‘bread or death’ is not acceptable for an European Union member state,” Stoynev said, referring to the fact that the coalmine is the main employer in the area.
The owner of the concession would also be required to pay the 118 300 leva it owes to the state in concession fees or agrees on a deferred payment plan before it is allowed to resume operations, he said.
The mine’s management acknowledged the debt owed to the state, but said it was owed three million leva by the private Bobov Dol thermal plant, which in turn was owed money by the state.
Stoynev said that the Cabinet would discuss the issue of financial aid that will be offered to the families of the dead miners at its next sitting, on August 7.
(Dragomir Stoynev. Photo: Economy Ministry)