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Coal Miners deaths.

On Saturday, May 5, we were reminded yet again the hazards attached to the coal mining industry in Balochistan. At least twenty three people were killed and several injured due to a gas explosion in a coal mine in mine in Marwar and Sur-range area, some 60 Km east of Quetta.

The members of Mines Laboure Federation protested the deaths of coal miners in Sooranj and Marwaarh, demanding the provincial government to arrange safety measures in order to prevent such incidents.The demonstrators chanted slogans against the Balochistan government and said action should be taken against the authorities responsible for safety at coal mines in the province.

The protesters also demanded Rs2 million be given to bereaved families of the coal miners.They were of the view that lack of safety measures at the mines lead to fatal incidents.

Balochistan is notorious for coal mine incidents where appalling safety measure for workers endangering their lives. Last year total 41coal mine workers were killed in mine explosion in Dukki, Mach and Quetta while dozens suffered burn injuries due to deadly methane gas.

A coal miners life is extremely hazardous and sometimes even fatal. He spends the best years of his life literally in the dark digging for a living under the most adverse conditions.

Coal miners in Balochistan are forced to work under extremely difficult conditions which violate all standards including those set by International Labour Organisation (ILO).The 1923 Mine Act proscribes a penalty of just Rs 40,000 and six months imprisonment for mine owners and contractors found guilty of committing violations that often lead to accidents and deaths of miners.

Clearly, there is a need to introduce fresh legislation which covers all labourers, makes it mandatory for owners, contractors and relevant authorities to implement safety procedures and proposes strict punishments for violators. Be it the provincial or the federal government ndash everyone is aware of the hazardous working conditions coal miners are forced to work under but they have chosen to do absolutely nothing to rectify the situation because coal is apparently more valuable than the lives of people who dig it from the earth.

As is the standard practice, an inquiry was immediately launched to placate the high emotions at that time. There has been no adaption of modern techniques, which place top most priority on security of the miners and structural stability of the mines.

There is a complete lack of support for men risking their lives while entering the mines. As they descend into the unknown, they don't have adequate safety gear available.

Nor is there suitable equipment to haul them out of danger in case of an accident.The contractors do not have any legal binding to ensure safety standards and thus put the lives of poor workers at risk to maximize their profits.

The quickest way to ensure improvement in mining industry is to introduce heavy penalties for breach of safety protocols.These penalties then must be implemented without any concession.

It is imperative that due care is taken to maximize the available potential while developing the mining industry into a lucrative, attractive one. This can only be done if priorities are realigned to develop competent policies, a capable department to oversee their implementation and above all, security and insurance of the men who risk their life in this most arduous task.

The blatant exploitation of miners and other labourers ought to be curbed. Making a living is hard, and it doesnt have to be a walk in the park, but labourers in Pakistan are made to pay too heavy a price and receive far too little in return.

Unless the government realizes the urgency and the need to improve these facilities, the life of the coal miners will remain at risk, while mine owners continue to reap the benefits.
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Publication:The Balochistan Express (Quetta, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:May 8, 2018
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