Little Justice for the 38 Dead, 152 Injured in Albania’s Chrome Mines

Over the last six years, 38 miners have lost their lives and 152 have been injured in the chrome mining industry in Albania, according to an investigation conducted by BIRN.

One woman who spoke to BIRN said that her husband died in 2016 and the management of the mine said it was due to a heart attack, an account she does not believe. The widow, Flora Koci claims that her husband was in good health prior to his death and they only claimed he died of natural causes to avoid paying her compensation.

In one instance, it was found that the death of Shahin Peti was covered up and his body was removed so that the mining company would not be held responsible. Peti’s wife Margarita says that the company offered just ALL 1.5 million (EUR 12,000) compensation for her husband’s life.

The report found that criminal consequences such as negligence were rarely brought against mining companies, most of which blamed the workers for the accidents.

While employees in the mining sector are required to be insured by their employers, in 2018 it was reported in Bulqiza that out of 3170 industry employees, 283 were not covered. This means that in the case of death or serious injury, the families that rely on the income generated by those working in the mines, end up with nothing.

Even in cases where victims are insured, families often face lengthy court cases against the insurance company to get what they are owed. 

In addition to this, over the last six years, some 427 employees were identified by the Labour Inspectorate as not having individual employment contracts and 391 were ‘informally employed’.

Legally speaking, if accidents were to occur during the line of work, this would mean that the employee would not be insured or covered by any labour laws, as well as not paying tax, or receiving any additional benefits as a regular employee would. 

Over the last six years, the Labour Inspectorate carried out 895 routine inspections of chrome mines as well as inspections due to complaints. A further 159 inspections were carried out due to accidents in the workplace. AKSEM told BIRN that out of100 cases of loss of life and injuries in the mins, only 13 were referred to the justice system. Only two of these cases resulted in charges against the employer.

Between 2014 and the end of October 2019, AKSEM issued 266 administrative measures against companies in the mining sector for health and safety violations and negligence.

Exit has previously reported on the alleged poor health and safety and labour conditions in Albania’s chrome mines. 

Earlier this year two miners were injured in AlbChrome mines owned by oligarch Samir Mane. The company was quick to blame the employee and even published a handwritten declaration from miner Asqeri Cupi where he took full responsibility “without any external influence whatsoever”. 

A newly formed Syndicate of Unified Miners of Bulqiza (SMBB) claims that since 2013, eight miners have died in Mane’s mines. AlbChrome did not dispute this, instead stating that they treat workers in “the most dignified way possible compared to any of the other 36 chrome mining companies.”

The SMBB have been protesting against poor working conditions, low salary and the fact that three of their members were fired just days after starting the new Union.

Albania’s chrome mining industry is estimated to be worth at least EUR 100 million every year.