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Lawyer of the families of the victims: "Soko" mine worked without a permit for 14 months before the accident, someone must be held accountable

That for 14 months the “Soko” Mine, in which 8 miners died last year, carried out pit excavations without a work permit, and that the ban came only after the death – claims the lawyer of the families of the deceased, Bratislav Stojanović. That is why, among other things, he complained about the decision of the Aleksinac Prosecutor’s Office that no one was responsible for the death of the miner, and he expects that in the next month the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Niš will make a decision on the complaint. By the end of the week, they will request that the National Assembly form a Commission that will review the work of all state bodies.

The families of the injured miners consider the Decision of the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Aleksinac to dismiss the criminal complaint for the accident in the “Soko” mine shameful and say that they will not give up on “seeking justice”. They are assisted in this by lawyer Bratislav Stojanović, who says that they have not reacted so far, because the case files were delivered to them only on December 15, almost 9 months after the accident.

At today’s press conference, the lawyer pointed out what they learned after the report they finally received.

I just want to point out that we have come to an incredible fact – that the republican mining inspector, the first to carry out an inspection after the mining accident, determined that the works were carried out without a work permit. The reported works were 14 months before the mining accident, which means that for 14 months, the “Soko” Mine carried out pit excavations without a work permit. Such an accident with catastrophic consequences should have happened in order for the mining inspector to prohibit the further execution of the works – points out Stojanović.

He also explains that the republic’s mining engineer determined that the death of 8 miners occurred in 40 seconds, because due to the high concentration of methane, there was suffocation, loss of consciousness and immediate death.

This means that the one who provided such working conditions, in violation of the Law on the Protection of Workers’ Rights and Enabling Work in Normal and Safe Conditions, turned off the supply of oxygen and that is why the miners died. However, if the oxygen supply had not been turned off, there would have been a spark, a big explosion, and then all the miners would have died in the entire shift of 67 workers – he explains.

Stojanović also explains that in 2016, the Public Enterprise “Resavica”, which also includes the “Soko” Mine, planned investments and development of a new method of excavation, i.e. ore exploitation, with the so-called “Czech system”.

That Czech system surpassed the earlier system of ore exploitation for the reason that, according to it, the hole is not exploited by digging tunnels like a mole, but mining is done from top to bottom, so-called piecemeal mining, on certain floors. Why was it done according to that method, because that method enables 4 levels of oxygen supply, with air from the surface of the mine, so that in case of methane formation, everyone is automatically protected because oxygen is supplied from 4 different sources – he explains.

However, he claims that they failed to secure money for this and that is why in 2020 they decided to continue the exploitation of the mine in the “Soko” pit using an outdated method, which is primarily unsafe for the workers.

"Someone must be held accountable, so that no one gets hurt again"

The lawyer notes that their goal is not to close this mine and no longer feed families in this poor environment, but to enable work in accordance with the use of the mentioned Czech method, that is, to make the working conditions safe for the miners.

Our goal is that such critical events and mining accidents do not occur in the future and that all responsible persons in legal entities are declared guilty and sentenced according to the law, as an example to other managers that in their work and in connection with work, if they do not ensure safe conditions for workers at work, they should be sanctioned for that, they should be punished most severely – he notes.

He also points out that he will not file new criminal charges until the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office makes a decision on the objection they submitted today, which he expects in the next month, and he announces that by the end of the week he will ask for the National Assembly to be involved in this case.

We were forced today to hold a press conference, to explain the problems we have and to prevent the popular “the caddy sues you, the caddy judges you”. Through the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, I will initiate the formation of an inquiry committee, that is, a commission that will have the exclusive task of reviewing the work of all state bodies, which includes the Ministry of Mining and Energy and public prosecutions. Let’s simply raise this problem to the highest level in this country, the National Assembly of Serbia, and try to solve that problem – he explains.

The lawyer also says that they have a plan for what they will do if the objection is rejected.

If the republican inspector, after the inspection, finds irregularities in the work, and the report is rejected, then we will file a new criminal report on the condition that if the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office does not accept our complaint and the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Aleksinac will no longer be competent in that criminal report, according to the threatened the higher public prosecutor’s office will already be responsible for the punishments and the qualification of the criminal acts, as carried out in the current report, because the threatened punishment for all responsible persons in the Public Enterprise “Resavica” will be from 2 to at least 12 years – Stojanović states.

Dragana Stajić, whose husband died in the mine, says that she did not expect such a decision from the Prosecutor’s Office, which they had been waiting for for months, and received before the holidays.

We will go on, we will not stop, I certainly won’t because I have a baby at home and I have no reason to stop, let alone be silent. We will see how everything will unfold, but sadly, another blow to families and another trampling – emphasizes Stajićeva.

Dalibor Zlatković, whose brother was the shift manager in the mine, also points out that the families will go to the end, that they are ready to fight for justice for the next 10 and 20 years, because they believe that someone must bear the responsibility for the accident in which they died 8 people.

Will he go to Strasbourg – the lawyer says that this is a last resort, but that he will first use all the regular legal means that exist in Serbia.

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