Reports of horrific fatal accidents continue to flow from the Pakistan coalmines. Most of these accidents happened in the mineral rich province of Balochistan and also Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces. The year 2019 began in tragedy for coalminers, and the trend continues.
2018 was one of the deadliest years for coal miners, with 104 workers dying while earning their livelihood. From 2010 to May 2019 at least 414 coal miners were killed in about 93 accidents. These fatality figures are based on news reports and the real numbers could be much higher.
A large number of accidents happened due to gas explosions resulting in fatal burn injuries and suffocation to death. In many instances the explosions also led to collapse of the mines. In the absolute absence of safety measures, in almost every accident rescue of victims has been difficult.
Almost all victims of these mine accidents are precarious workers, who were made to work in dangerous conditions for paltry wages. These workers do not have written contracts and usually no record of their work status or attendance register exists. No appropriate training is provided to the coal miners.
The shocking use of primitive methods of mining can be understood from the fact that workers still use caged birds to detect the presence of poisonous gas in mines. In addition to fatal accidents mineworkers face occupational diseases such as asthma, pneumoconiosis, bronchitis and other lung diseases.
The state machinery in charge for regulating and inspecting the safety measures of the mines operations appears to have collapsed and remains as mute spectators to incessant terrible tragedies. The state machinery also suffers from inadequate staff and lack of security measures to ensure appropriate inspections.
In September 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan asked the provincial governments Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to submit a report, in response to a petition to investigate the deaths of coal miners and implement laws regulating mine safety. However, there seems to have been no response from these provinces. Apparently the Pakistan National Commission for Human Rights has also taken note of the accidents but the government has taken no significant action.
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary said,
“IndustriALL and its global union family are outraged that this carnage in Pakistan mines continues unabated. This is completely unacceptable for us. The new government, which has promised a ‘New Pakistan’, must immediately act by putting together all the means to improve safety and stop coal miners’ deaths. It is imperative that the government must ratify and implement ILO C 176 on safety and health in mines without any delay”.
“In March 2018 IndustriALL along with its affiliates launched a campaign for health and safety in mines. We will intensify our campaign in 2019.”
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