31 July, 2019On the night shift at the Bharatpur open cast mine, at around 11.30pm on 23 July, a controlled explosion triggered a landslide trapping 13 coal miners.
Bharatpur is in the Talcher coalfields of Mahanadi Coalfields, a subsidiary of Coal India Limited in the state of Odisha.
So far, nine coal miners have been rescued from the debris and are receiving medical treatment. The bodies of three miners, Papun Biswal (28), a driver, Rashmi Ranjan Behera (25), a supervisor and Raju Mohapatra (37) have been recovered, while one other workers’ body is yet to be recovered.
All the accident victims are precarious workers. According to local trade union representatives, the accident could have been prevented. The union safety committee had raised concerns with management in a meeting, but appropriate action was not taken.
According to a recent estimate by the Directorate General of Mines Safety, mine accidents claim a large number of miners’ lives every year. From June 2016 to June 2019, a total of 417 miners were killed in fatal mine accidents, with 238 of the victims being coal miners.
Union representatives expressed deep concerns that high production targets, unplanned extraction of coal, outsourcing coal production to third parties, involvement of a large number of untrained precarious workers and management negligence of safety measures continues to result in such avoidable accidents in the mines of Coal India Limited.
Meanwhile, Coal India management has suspended the senior mine manager and announced compensation. For the past seven days, some workers have continued to protest demanding higher compensation and high-level investigation into the accident.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for the mining, diamond, gem, ornament and jewelry processing sectors said,
“It is unfortunate that management negligence continues to cause avoidable accidents and claim the precious lives of hundreds of miners in India. It is time that the government of India step up its efforts to improve mine safety and immediately ratify and implement ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines.”
Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia Regional Secretary, said,
“It is appalling that such completely avoidable ‘accidents’ are occurring in the mines owned by a subsidiary of Coal India, a public sector undertaking. It is high time that safety procedures and practices were overhauled so that workers lives are not constantly endangered.”