Forty six workers killed in explosion at Kostenko mine, Kazakhstan

Kostenko mine, Kazakhstan (Photo: CC)

ArcelorMittal, the largest steel producer in Kazakhstan, and one of the largest in the world, has, once again, found itself in the spotlight – not because of its prosperity, but due to a tragedy that left dozens of workers dead. This event raises important questions about working conditions, trade unions, and capitalist exploitation at ArcelorMittal.

On October 28th, a tragic explosion occurred at the Kostenko mine, owned by ArcelorMittal in Temirtau, Kazakhstan, in the Karaganda region. This resulted in the death of forty-six workers, and many others were seriously injured. This is not the first incident at this plant. Many people would think that a major international company that generates enormous profits should provide safe and decent working conditions for its employees. However, the reality is quite different.

It is worth asking how ArcelorMittal managed to achieve its profitability. This is possible only through the exploitation of its workers, and thanks to the blatant complicity of the authorities in Kazakhstan in high government positions. Workers who earn a pittance compared to the profits generated by the company are forced to work in dangerous conditions without adequate protection. Workers are forced to endanger their health and lives for the benefit of a small group of corporate magnates and their lobbyists in power.

Erlan Sairov, a member of the Majilis (Kazakhstan Parliament), says that Kazakhstan does not need such an investor. Yet the same Sairov, after a tragedy in 2008 at the Abai mine, claiming the lives of thirty miners, and another tragedy which occurred that same year at the Tentek mine, where five more people died, continued to lobby for work with the “blood investor”.

Alihan Asqatovich Smailov, who is currently acting Prime Minister, and a year earlier served as the Deputy Prime Minister, practically ignored parliamentary requests and public outrage regarding the working conditions and many deaths at the company. Indeed, ArcelorMittal’s practices were ignored for decades by all government structures, oversight bodies, and company owners.

The latest mining deaths also raises questions about trade unions and their role in protecting the rights of the working class. Unfortunately, many trade unions in Kazakhstan and around the world have fallen under the influence of large corporations and cannot effectively protect the interests of workers. They often compromise in favour of employers, ignoring the real problems faced by workers.

KazLeft raises the issue of the need to change the system in which corporations make profits at the expense of their workers. We argue for the criminal punishment of all participants in the bloody, corrupt boss’s production chain. Workers must have the right to safe working conditions, fair wages, and protection from greedy corporations. This is not just a matter of the tragedy at ArcelorMittal; it is a matter of fighting for justice and equality. Therefore, it is the workers who should have the opportunity to directly influence the management of the production. And we demand the transfer of ArcelorMittal to not just under the control of the state but under the control of democratically elected representatives of the enterprise’s employees!

So, let us not forget those who have died and suffered because of corporate greed. Let us raise the question of the human cost of boss’s profits, and what we are willing to sacrifice for justice. Only workers can change this system and fight for their rights.

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November 2023