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KAZAKHSTAN: COAL MINING INDUSTRY FACES ECONOMIC RUIN
 
02:15
Russian/Nat Industrial unrest is growing in former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. The country's flagship industry - coal mining - is facing economic ruin in the wake of market reforms. Nearly one in five of Kazakhstan's pits have been shut down by strikes after miners went almost six months without pay. Clouds are gathering over the once-flourishing coal industry in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan. In its heyday, the Karaganda basin was key to the Soviet Union's mighty industrialisation programme. But now the region's mines are on the brink of catastrophe. Market reforms in the republic have severed generous subsidies from the pits, paralysing investment and wages. But the pit directors are forbidden to raise the price of coal to cover their debts. The mines are forced to provide coal to other industries - but many of these plants cannot pay them back for the energy. Formerly one of the Soviet Union's best rewarded professions, the payments crisis has left over 100-thousand mine workers unpaid for almost six months. The mine managers no longer try to hide the depth of the problem: SOUNDBITE: (In Russian) "The situation has now reached a critical point. We have been virtually unable to pay salaries since December and our debts just keep rising." SUPER CAPTION: Alexander Karev, Mine Director Four of the area's 22 pits are now on indefinite strike. Kazakh legislation all but throttles official trade union action. But the miners have sidestepped their unions and taken affairs into their own hands, organising local strike committees and sharing what little funds are at their disposal. Hostility towards the government is increasing: SOUNDBITE: (In Russian) "They don't care how ordinary workers live, what they have for lunch or dinner, how they can feed their children. We haven't been paid for our labour for six months now. They give us just a pittance and there's not much you can get for a pittance." SUPER CAPTION: Guseyn Khadzhiev, Miner Special shops for miners were once stacked with goods that were unavailable in regular Soviet stores. Now they are virtually barren. Despairing of the government and the ineffectiveness of their trade unions, thousands of miners have already fled Kazakhstan in search of work in neighbouring Russia and Ukraine. The Denishenkos live in a cramped apartment near the pits in Karaganda. Tanya, disabled since birth, is unable to work. Her husband Ivan supports her, their daughter and his mother-in-law: SOUNDBITE: (In Russian) "My family is beginning to starve. There's no money for food, no money for clothes, to say nothing of medicine. I have no idea how we can carry on." SUPER CAPTION: Ivan Denishenko, Miner Working conditions have worsened - 26 miners were killed in accidents last year. 35 miners at this pit refused to come to the surface since Thursday, announcing an indefinite hunger strike. A letter of protest was sent to the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, listing the miners' complaints. But so far there's been no reply and the men are in no mood for compromise as mines stand idle, apart from safety checks. You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/youtube/95c80cbbcdfd7eb46560faf3ef8ec3e6 Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork
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