Photos | Stuck in a rut: Georgian town finds little to offer its miners

A collapse in a coal mine in the Georgian town of Tkibuli in July killed four miners and injured six. It wasn’t the first time the town had witnessed such an incident, or a first for the Soviet era mine where the men worked. In fact, just three months prior, in an accident at the same pit, six miners were killed and three injured. In all, 32 miners have died in accidents at the Mindeli mine over the past decade and most local men acknowledge that if they could find other work they would. The reality is there is no other alternative.

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST 13 Photos
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Miner David Kublashvili, 38, waits to enter the Mindeli mine in Tkibuli, Georgia. When the roof of the coal mine collapsed in July, killing four miners and injuring six, the small town was plunged into grief but not for the first time. Just three months previously in April in an accident at the same pit, six miners were killed and three injured. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

Miner David Kublashvili, 38, waits to enter the Mindeli mine in Tkibuli, Georgia. When the roof of the coal mine collapsed in July, killing four miners and injuring six, the small town was plunged into grief but not for the first time. Just three months previously in April in an accident at the same pit, six miners were killed and three injured. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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Lizi, 8, mourns at the casket of her grandfather Mikheil Gamezardashvili, 55, a miner who died during an accident at the Mindeli mine in July. In all, 32 miners have died in accidents at the Mindeli mine in Tkibuli, 200 km west of the capital Tbilisi, over the past decade and most local men acknowledge that if they could find other work they would do. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

Lizi, 8, mourns at the casket of her grandfather Mikheil Gamezardashvili, 55, a miner who died during an accident at the Mindeli mine in July. In all, 32 miners have died in accidents at the Mindeli mine in Tkibuli, 200 km west of the capital Tbilisi, over the past decade and most local men acknowledge that if they could find other work they would do. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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A miner carries a gas detector at the Mindeli mine. The reality is there is no other alternative. July’s accident was caused by a build-up of pressure leading to an explosion. After every serious accident, human rights activists and unions in Georgia renew their calls on authorities and private companies to improve security for miners. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

A miner carries a gas detector at the Mindeli mine. The reality is there is no other alternative. July’s accident was caused by a build-up of pressure leading to an explosion. After every serious accident, human rights activists and unions in Georgia renew their calls on authorities and private companies to improve security for miners. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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Miners in the Mindeli mine. After a protest in Tkibuli two years ago miners won some improvement in working conditions and a small pay rise. But, in general, little changes, the protest mood fades and miners go back down the pit again. A few see it as an automatic continuation of a family tradition. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

Miners in the Mindeli mine. After a protest in Tkibuli two years ago miners won some improvement in working conditions and a small pay rise. But, in general, little changes, the protest mood fades and miners go back down the pit again. A few see it as an automatic continuation of a family tradition. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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Miner David Tsnobiladze, 20, rests in a changing room at the Mindeli mine. David has worked at the mine for two years. His father has worked at the mine for 20 years and his grandfather worked there for 34 years. Tsnobiladzes believes the mine is the main part of the town. “It is the spine. Without the mine, the town would not exist,” he said. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

Miner David Tsnobiladze, 20, rests in a changing room at the Mindeli mine. David has worked at the mine for two years. His father has worked at the mine for 20 years and his grandfather worked there for 34 years. Tsnobiladzes believes the mine is the main part of the town. “It is the spine. Without the mine, the town would not exist,” he said. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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“I always wanted to work at the mine ... It’s a difficult job, but it’s interesting because I learn something new every day,” the 20-year-old said. But he admits few of his young peers share his attitude. “Many of them are unemployed, but still don’t want to work at the mine because they’re either afraid or lazy.” (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

“I always wanted to work at the mine ... It’s a difficult job, but it’s interesting because I learn something new every day,” the 20-year-old said. But he admits few of his young peers share his attitude. “Many of them are unemployed, but still don’t want to work at the mine because they’re either afraid or lazy.” (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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A Soviet-era apartment building is seen in Tkibuli. The town is located in the lowlands of a scenic mountain gorge though the city itself is a typical Soviet-built industrial town with grey shabby houses and unsightly streets. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

A Soviet-era apartment building is seen in Tkibuli. The town is located in the lowlands of a scenic mountain gorge though the city itself is a typical Soviet-built industrial town with grey shabby houses and unsightly streets. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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School children can head for the local stadium or pool after school is over or join in folk dancing classes. But for teenagers or those who are older, there is a sad dearth of night clubs or internet cafes. Mining was developed in Tkibuli in the 19th century and the town became the centre of Georgia’s coal mining industry in Soviet times. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

School children can head for the local stadium or pool after school is over or join in folk dancing classes. But for teenagers or those who are older, there is a sad dearth of night clubs or internet cafes. Mining was developed in Tkibuli in the 19th century and the town became the centre of Georgia’s coal mining industry in Soviet times. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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A miner walks to enter the Mindeli mine. Miners were an elite class of worker in Soviet times. They had good salaries and perks and dictator Josef Stalin even spared them the draft during the war. Infrastructure sprang up around the mines. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

A miner walks to enter the Mindeli mine. Miners were an elite class of worker in Soviet times. They had good salaries and perks and dictator Josef Stalin even spared them the draft during the war. Infrastructure sprang up around the mines. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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Men play backgammon on a street in Tkibuli. That momentum came to a halt with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Textile workshops, a lemonade-producing factory and other small businesses were closed, leaving the mine as almost the only job option for locals now living in an independent state. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

Men play backgammon on a street in Tkibuli. That momentum came to a halt with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Textile workshops, a lemonade-producing factory and other small businesses were closed, leaving the mine as almost the only job option for locals now living in an independent state. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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Miner Gocha Gabunia, 34, waits in a train before entering the mine. Gocha has worked here for 15 years. “If there was a chance to find another job in this city, nobody would work at the mine,” he said. He was also slightly injured in one of the accidents, though he got back to work a few days after that. “Once I was buried alive in a mine and was saved 30 minutes later.” (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

Miner Gocha Gabunia, 34, waits in a train before entering the mine. Gocha has worked here for 15 years. “If there was a chance to find another job in this city, nobody would work at the mine,” he said. He was also slightly injured in one of the accidents, though he got back to work a few days after that. “Once I was buried alive in a mine and was saved 30 minutes later.” (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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Retired miner Guram Gamezardashvili, 54, stands at a grave of his son Pavle who died during an accident at the mine. “There isn’t any other job in the town that’s why we all work at the mine. We need more attention from the government, the safety rules must be tightened. The closing of the mine is not a solution, so many people will starve in that case,” he said. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

Retired miner Guram Gamezardashvili, 54, stands at a grave of his son Pavle who died during an accident at the mine. “There isn’t any other job in the town that’s why we all work at the mine. We need more attention from the government, the safety rules must be tightened. The closing of the mine is not a solution, so many people will starve in that case,” he said. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST
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People mourn during a funeral for miners who died during an accident at the Mindeli mine. Others are of the opinion that the deadly mine should be shut down. “Agricultural farms should be built around the city. That would be an alternative to the mine,” said 16-year-old Luka Bakradze. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

People mourn during a funeral for miners who died during an accident at the Mindeli mine. Others are of the opinion that the deadly mine should be shut down. “Agricultural farms should be built around the city. That would be an alternative to the mine,” said 16-year-old Luka Bakradze. (David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2018 09:45 AM IST

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