A rusty and dilapidated century-old manganese mine is emerging as a focal point of spreading labor discontent in Georgia. A trade union leader blames the libertarian economic reform approach taken by President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government for stoking worker anger.
A strike began at Georgian Manganese Holding’s mine on October 15, and unrest quickly spread across the country. The 3,700 miners at the mine in the central Georgian town of Chiatura are demanding better working conditions and a doubling of their current 300-lari ($180.72) monthly salaries. Operating in shafts up to 2.5 kilometers beneath the earth’s surface, the miners rely on equipment that largely dates back to the Brezhnev era.
Manganese is Georgia’s second largest export commodity. Executives at Georgian Manganese, a majority-Ukrainian-owned company, did not respond to interview requests.
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Kakha Jibladze contributed additional reporting to this story. Molly Corso is a freelance journalist who also works as editor of Investor.ge, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia. This article does not reflect the views of the American Chamber of Commerce.