Creating a safe work environment for miners: Interview with Georgian Coal

One of the main priorities in the mining sector around the world is to create a safe working environment in mines and to fully comply with safety standards. Work is underway to improve safety standards in Georgia, particularly in the Tkibuli mines, where a safety audit was conducted by DMT.

Giorgi Obolashvili, Business Development Manager of DMT in the Caucasus, spoke about DMT's activities and the challenges facing the coal industry in an interview with Mrs. Gvantsa Delibashvili, Chief Specialist in Public Relations at Georgian Coal, for a recent press release.


1. Tell us about the activities of DMT: When was the company established, what are its main directions, in which countries does it work and what are the values of the company?

DMT predecessors originated in the German coal industry in 1734 and have been servicing the German and international coal industry since. DMT’s predecessors were founded to improve safety in mines and to educate and supervise miners and engineers.

As early as 1900, mining scientific and research centers were established under the umbrella of the RAG Coal company (German Coal Corporation), and in 1990 all these service companies and research centers were merged to form Deutsche Montan Technologie (DMT), an engineering and consulting company with in-depth knowledge in the coal industry. In 2007, DMT joined TÜV NORD GROUP, Germany's largest testing, inspection and certification company with an annual turnover of  more than 1 billion €, more than 10,000 employees and offices in 70 countries.

Today, DMT operates in almost all countries worldwide and has offices in Germany, UK, South Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, India, Australia and Canada.


2. What challenges do companies operating in the mining sector face and what is the main indicator of successful work?

Internationally and in Georgia – social license to operate, legal and fiscal framework, governmental administration and governance, consulting and engineering for mining operations.

The main indicator for successful work is a satisfied customer with projects and services delivered on time and budget and the extra level of safety, security and benefit that you can expect from DMT.


3. What are the international safety standards for mines?

There are no general all-encompassing international standards valid in every country or legislation. Each deposit has its own characteristics with regards to hazards and risks and that’s the reason why mining companies, mining consultants and engineering companies closely work together for economic and safe operations under approval of the local mining authorities. However, there are certain principal guidelines based on best industry practice and guidelines published by governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as other stakeholders such as industry, chambers of commerce, trade unions etc.    


4. What are the dangers of unlicensed extraction of coal, how are these processes managed?

All unlicensed mining has to be stopped immediately, and further access be denied until safe and approved working procedures are in place.


5. What steps must a company take to create a safe work environment?

Study conditions in the mine controlling safety (e.g. geotechnical parameters, hydrogeological situation, gas content, combustion, dust, etc.) and develop a risk and mitigation matrix. Underground-mine infrastructure and production requires planning based on the risk matrix and measures to mitigate risks, e.g. pre-production de-gassing and de-stressing.


6. Tell us about the cooperation between Saknakhshiri and DMT(What recommendations were issued in the first stage and what is the situation now)

Relations with DMT and the Coal Company in Georgia started in 2017, we provided various consulting services, and in 2018, by order of the Government of Georgia, DMT conducted a health and safety audit in the Tkibuli mines. We provided a fairly detailed report, although for some time the mines were closed and therefore our recommendations could not be implemented.

However, last year, the new owner contacted us and presented us with an updated action plan and asked us to re-conduct a health and safety audit that has already been carried out and we are currently agreeing on the final details. I would like to express here that the company's approach to improving mine safety is very serious and they are doing everything to make the work process in the mines safe, they are actively and openly cooperating with us to achieve the desired result together, I personally have a very positive feeling. Following the final recommendations, at the request of the company, DMT experts will periodically monitor the work process in the mines to minimize the risks.


7. In general, how are mine safety standards controlled?

Constant monitoring of gas, dust and other geotechnical and production safety parameters by the safety department, regular audits and supervision of mine workings, exploration of areas with future mining works, modelling and prediction of production and safety parameters and cross checks with actual and current data from operations.


8. In addition to the technical work performed by the company, what else is needed to ensure labour safety (for example, compliance with labour rules by employees?)

All technical operations in all industries bear a remaining minimal risk. Technical procedures are designed to avoid any unsafe action, but technical or individual failure and unforeseeable events cannot be totally excluded. That’s very present to all people working in responsible positions in the industry and it’s a constant task to improve on more and more safer operations. When I joined DMT for the first 3 years in Germany, I was doing some research in one of the local coalmines; I remember very well that the inspectors there responded if a miner even closed his eyes for more than a blink.

Therefore, it is clear that each miner must strictly adhere to mining regulations, the workers are trained, have all necessary inductions under a customized safety system and have developed a culture of safety. We can write recommendations every month, but at the end of the day, the miners themselves face the challenges of implementing these recommendations and they are in the hot seat. Implementing a safety culture under the guidance and supervision of the safety department is a huge and long lasting task for highly committed and engaged safety experts in mining.

The safety department in Tkibuli should be renewed, and the approach between the directorate and the miners in general should be tightened and improved. Continuous training, continuous optimization of equipment, processes and procedures are required.


Giorgi Obolashvili
Tel: +49 201 172-1986