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Unsafe Pakistani mines continue to claim workers’ lives

14 March, 2023At least six mine workers were killed last week due to a poisonous gas leak and four others were gunned down by militant forces in Pakistan's Harnai mining area.

Pakistani mines are infamous for being among the deadliest workplaces in the world, killing many workers every month. Workers' hardship is exacerbated by the lack of law and order in mines, where miners are often killed and abducted by militant forces.

The Pakistani government and mine owners have failed to ensure safe workplaces. Pakistan has yet to ratify ILO Convention 176, which calls for health and safety in all mines.

According to IndustriALL’s Pakistani affiliates, in the last two years, at least 300 miners were killed and more than 100 severely injured. As of 10 March this year, at least 30 miners were killed and more than twenty injured.

Miners die in both state and privately owned mines. Landslides, electrocutions, mine blasts, and gas poisoning have led to fatalities and serious injuries. Workers are unable to file compensation claims for death or injury because of a lack of attendance records and no social security scheme registrations. 

Pakistan imports oil and gas from the Ukraine and the current situation has caused a severe energy crisis in Pakistan. Foreign exchange reserves are plummeting and the country is unable to import oil and gas from other countries.

The situation puts enormous pressure on the coal industry to operate coal-powered plants to meet some electricity needs. However, Pakistan’s coal mining industry is facing a crisis due import restrictions and banks refusing to approve credit letters. The strain to manage the crisis has now fallen on the domestic coal sector. Miners who have already been working in dangerous conditions are now forced to increase production and compromise workplace safety conditions.

Employers are not allocating resources to train miners to perform safe mining and the government is not ensuring compliance with safety standards. This is often the case in unregistered private mines. 

General secretary, Sultan Khan, from IndustriALL’s affiliate the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation’s, says: 

“The situation in coal mines is worsening due to non-implementation of labour laws as well as the labour department’s negligence. We demand that the mining department conduct a thorough investigation of the accidents and that criminal cases are filed against mine owners.”

IndustriALL’s South Asia regional secretary, Apoorva Kaiwar, says: 

“IndustriALL calls on the Pakistani government to immediately ratify ILO C176. Employers need to ensure that workers are provided with safe working conditions.”