The Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Niš accepted the objection of the representatives of the families of the eight injured miners of the “Soko” mine to the decision of the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Aleksinac from January 5, which dismissed the criminal complaint filed by the Ministry of Mining and Energy (MME) against 14 people due to the accident in the “Soko” mine. in Čitluk near Sokobanja on April 1 last year, lawyer Bratislav Stojanović, who represents the families of the victims, confirmed for “Blic”.
The Aleksinac Prosecutor’s Office was ordered to hear additional witnesses, and Stojanović states that the novelty is that this time he will also have the opportunity to actively participate in the proceedings. Stojanović announced for “Blic” that, on behalf of the miners’ families, he would send a request to the National Assembly of Serbia to form an inquiry committee that would check the work and actions of OJT Aleksinac as well as MME.
– The Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Nis gave an instruction on the actions of the OJT in Aleksinac, which states that it is necessary to hear the republican mining inspector who supervised the mine in the critical month when the accident occurred, as well as the chief manager of the ventilation system. Let’s see if that system was technically correct and when the technical control was carried out. An instruction was given that the chief dispatcher who worked in the shift should also be heard, and it was suggested that one of the miners who worked in the pit should also be heard. The representatives of the commission of the Faculty of Mining and Geology in Belgrade who went to the scene and gave their findings and opinions will also be heard. The instructions state that I can actively participate in the proceedings, that I can testify about all proposed witnesses and written evidence, lawyer Stojanović told Blic.
He announced that next week he will submit an initiative to the National Assembly of Serbia for the formation of a survey committee in order to review the work of the OJT in Aleksinac and the competent Ministry of Mining and Energy (MME).
– I will submit a request for the formation of a survey committee in order to review the situation in the field of mining and establish the facts regarding this mining accident, in order to help us in dealing with the competent prosecutor’s office and the departmental MME when collecting the necessary case files and statements of all persons given during the procedure, and all with with the aim of creating a strong factual situation for the eventual filing of a criminal complaint. I have faith in the prosecution in Serbia and I believe that given the facts we have, we will be able to prove who are the responsible persons in JP Resavica for the occurrence of this mining accident, with the aim of preventing this from happening again in the future, Stojanović told Blic.
Stojanović says that the expert’s report stated that the mine operated for 14 months without a work permit and that it was only by luck that a much larger tragedy was avoided.
– On that critical night, there were 67 miners in the third shift. When they did the excavation, they buried the entrance to the pit and only one man could slip through the narrow passage at an angle. And when there was a strong concentration of methane, then that methane returned to that pit, it did not come out in such a strong burst. They were lucky he came back. Unfortunately, those eight miners died in 40 seconds because they ran out of air. The rest were just dazed, otherwise they too would have been killed if the methane had passed. Five percent concentration very strong, suffocation occurred in 40 seconds. The expert’s report concluded that the mine had been operating for 14 months without a work permit, Stojanović told Blic.
In 2016, MME implemented a new excavation method
Stojanović says that the goal of this procedure is to introduce a new excavation method in Serbia, which is much safer.
– In the 21st century, we exploit with an outdated method. Back in 2016, MME worked on a new method of excavation, our goal is for that project to come to life and to introduce a new method. I welcome the decision of the MME, which agreed with union representatives to continue surface mining, and stopped deep digging until safe conditions are ensured, that is, the introduction of another method that was advocated in 2016, but someone gave up due to lack of money. Then, when methane appears underground, our workers will be protected by staying alive because the methane will be released to the surface through natural ventilation, and he will receive oxygen through another ventilation pipe, explains Stojanović. He adds that a ventilation system is now in use that automatically shuts off when the concentration of methane exceeds five percent, so that the sparking of the air supply fan would not cause an explosion. It was apparently fatal for the eight miners because they ran out of oxygen after the appearance of a large concentration of methane.
Chronology of the investigation
As “Blic” wrote, the OJT in Aleksinac, after the pre-investigation procedure, rejected the criminal complaint filed by the Ministry of Mining and Energy (MME) against 14 people due to the accident in the “Soko” mine, with the explanation that there are no grounds for suspecting that a criminal offense was committed. for which he is prosecuted ex officio. The MME submitted a criminal complaint to the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Niš on August 18, after the OJT in Aleksinac announced on July 27 that there were no grounds for criminal prosecution of anyone. When submitting the complaint against 14 persons, the MME announced that they are considered responsible because the work was carried out on the basis of incorrect and invalid documentation, for inaction or for acting contrary to the regulations on the night when the accident occurred in the “Soko” mine, and that there are indications that commissioned the preparation of the Technical Mining Project based on the supplementary and main mining project for which they did not have the approval of the relevant Ministry or the approvals have expired. A technical control was also carried out that did not check all the facts and claimed that approvals existed, although there were none.
Miners Branko Čokorilo, Bojan Stajić, Bratislav Živković, Branislav Zlatanović, Petar Petrović, Darko Zlatković, Nenad Trivunac and Radovan Grujić died due to methane suffocation in an accident in the Soko mine on April 1, 2022.
Two applications for economic offence
In addition to the criminal complaint against 14 persons suspected of being responsible for the accident in the “Soko” mine, the MME filed OJT in Aleksinac and two reports for commercial offense against JP PEU “Resavica” and the responsible persons in this company, as well as against the company for production, engineering, design and marketing “Teragold & CO” DOO Belgrade and the responsible person in this company.
-The acting mining inspector of the Ministry of Mining and Energy filed a complaint for economic offense against JP PEU “Resavica” for carrying out mining works on coal exploitation without obtaining a decision on approval issued by the Ministry, and against the company “Teragold & CO” DOO Belgrade for that they made the final report on the performed technical control of the mining project which was not expressed in accordance with the previously approved documentation prescribed by law, it was announced earlier from MME. The OJT in Aleksinac was handed over the report of the inspector, numerous pieces of evidence, as well as other documentation that the Ministry has in connection with decisions on approval for the performance of mining works, it was announced earlier from the MME.