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Pakistan’s mines have killed at least 150 workers this year

14 December, 2022The deadly accident in a coal mine in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan on 30 November was not a stand-alone incident. Nine workers were killed and four others sustained critical injuries in a gas blast, adding to the already alarming death toll in the country’s mining industry.

According to data compiled by IndustriALL Global Union, unsafe mining in Pakistan has claimed the lives of more than 150 workers and injured more than 20 others this year alone.

Most accidents are caused by mine collapses, gas leaks, and flooding. Mining continued throughout the disastrous rains that struck the country earlier this year, killing numerous worekrs. Unregistered mines and unregulated work further add to the hazardous working environment.

Miners work in dangerous conditions that lack proper warning systems to alert workers of gas leaks or flooding. With only a dim light affixed to their helmets, miners are forced to work in almost complete darkness. Effective supervision is also lacking at mining sites, and workers receive little to no training on safety precautions to take in an emergency. And as there is no proper attendance register, it is unclear how many workers are present in the mine when accidents occur.

The law requires one doctor and an ambulance at each mining site, but this is not implemented, and several deaths occur on the way to hospitals. In case of death or serious injuries, workers’ families do not receive adequate compensation.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL south Asia regional secretary, says:

“Neither the employers nor the government are enforcing adequate safety measures at mining sites. Most of the time, miners are dying in accidents that can be prevented by regulation.”

While safety mechanisms are not being enforced at the workplace, occupational diseases are neglected even further. Silicosis, lung fibrosis, lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other debilitating diseases frequently result in death or permanent disability.

It is challenging for workers to access healthcare because of their extremely low wages and lack of social protection. Employers take no responsibility to provide care and treatment to these workers.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:

“The Pakistani government must ratify ILO C176 immediately and fulfil its responsibility towards providing workers engaged in mining with a safer workplace. The government must effectively implement the safety to protect miners’ lives.”