Mining in Tkibuli: Death is never far away

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'Nobody would work here if ...'

Over the past 16 months, close to 20 people have died during various mining accidents in the Georgian town of Tkibuli. "If there were a chance to find another job in this town, nobody would work at the mine," says Gocha Gabunia.

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'I learn something every day'

While few of his young peers share his attitude, 20-year-old David Tsnobiladze sees his job as a continuation of a family tradition and actually loves to work here. "It's a difficlut job, but I learn something new every day."

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'It's the spine'

Tsnobiladze is aware of the dangers of working at the Mindeli mine in Tkibuli. He's been there for two years. His father has worked here for 20 years, while his grandfather was here for 34 years. "The mine is the main part of the town, it's the spine," says David.

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Tkibuli's dark heritage

The latest accident at the mine in July of this year was caused by a build-up of pressure eventually leading to an explosion. Four people died and six were injured. Unions renewed their calls to improve the miners' safety, as they had done after previous accidents.

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Sorrowful times

Miner David Kublashvili, 38, waits to enter the Mindeli mine for yet another day underground. During the Soviet era, there were four mines in Tkibuli, and there were textile workshops plus other businesses. But those times are gone.

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'Mine closure is no solution'

Although retired worker Guram Gamezardashvili lost his son during an accident in the mine earlier this year and got severely injured himself in 2010, he doesn't want the mine to shut down. "Closing the mine is no solution — so many people would starve if that happened."

Mining is the backbone of the local economy in Tkibuli, a town in Georgia some 230 kilometers (142 miles) west of the country's capital, Tbilisi. A series of accidents and explosions has taken a heavy human toll.

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