Daily NK has belatedly learned that 14 workers were killed at the end of January when a mine collapsed at the Gomdok Mining Cooperative Enterprise in South Hamgyong Province. The Gomdok Mine began a “90-day battle” to boost production at the beginning of the year. 

A source in South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Feb. 24 that “14 workers lost their lives on Jan. 26 when a mine accidentally collapsed on them as they were attempting to connect mines together at the Gomdok Mine, which has been overwhelmed by the [demands of the] 90-day battle.” 

“On that day, the accident was caused by the blast that occurred as the workers were attempting to connect two mines together by boring a tunnel between the main mine and the one next to it,” the source said. 

The source explained that “the main reason for the accident was miscalculating the time needed to escape after laying out the blasting line,” adding that “[the managers] would have had to set the timer to ensure that the blast could not occur until after the workers in the mine could get to a distance of more than 100 meters away. The blast, however, occurred before they were able to escape and the mine collapsed on them, killing them on the spot.” 

Komdok Mine
Photographs taken at the Gomdok Mine. / Image: DPRK Today

Daily NK has also become aware that four workers who were escaping in another direction at the time were hit by rocks from the blast and taken to the provincial hospital for major injuries such as head trauma

The source mentioned that “even if accidents like this occur almost on a daily basis in both small and large mines, the mining managers are more concerned with the production goals than accident prevention.”

He also added that “comments by the managers that ‘it is natural for accidents to happen when working’ is causing dissatisfaction among the workers.” 

Local residents aware of the situation showed their exasperation by saying that “the people who died, leaving their families behind, are the only ones suffering” and are asking why the managers are emphasizing meeting state-set production goals when people could die “at any time” in the mines.

Meanwhile, the bereaved families of the workers who were killed reportedly received no other compensation other than one month’s worth of food rations. The source said that “the families who suddenly lost their main breadwinners [and forced out on the streets] are left in the difficult situation of trying to figure out how to survive.” 

“Mineworkers have already been living through enough hardships as the COVID-19 situation continues, and their anxiety is intensifying even further as accidents keep happening,” the source added.

*Translated by Vilde Olaussen

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.