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Mine safety crisis in Pakistan: 10 more people killed

17 March, 2016The mining industry in Pakistan is in the grip of a safety crisis as the avoidable loss of workers’ lives continues in the country.

Ten workers were killed in a mining accident on 12 March 2016 at the Al-Hussaini coal mine in the Doli area of Orakzai region, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Accumulated methane gas reportedly caused a blast inside the mine, while heavy rainfall added to difficulties in rescuing 27 workers who were trapped inside.

While comprehensive data on mine fatalities is not available, a survey of news reports shows that since 2010, at least 228 mineworkers have been killed in 38 separate incidents. This may be a low estimate, but nonetheless reflects the magnitude of the problem. The unabated loss of life proves that Pakistani mines continue to be operated with poor safety standards and bad ventilation.

Whether publicly or privately owned, workers face hazardous occupational safety standards and poor working conditions. Most workers are employed through labour contractors, are poorly paid and have no written contract. Many are paid in advance, and have their debt deducted from their wages, keeping them in debt bondage.

In many cases, mine management is not able to respond adequately to accidents. Professional rescue work often starts late. With a lack of professional medical support available close to mines, victims are often transported to distant hospitals, wasting precious life-saving time.

Neither injured workers, nor the families of those killed, receive adequate medical care or compensation. Despite the fact that methane gas explosions are a major cause of mining accidents, the government has failed to take the necessary corrective steps.

Poor labour inspection is major cause of non-compliance with safety laws in mining operations. The total number of labour inspectors in Pakistan increased from 293 to only 337 from 2001 to 2012, with just one labour inspector for every 250,000 workers in the formal non-agriculture sector of the economy.

In a letter to IndustriALL Pakistan Council, Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, said:

We repeat our demand that the Pakistan government urgently ratify ILO Convention 176 on Health and Safety in Mines and that, as matter of extreme urgency, it implement the ILO Code of Practice on Safety and Health in Underground Coal Mines.