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Workplace safety still a major concern in Pakistani mines

12 July, 2022According to IndustriALL affiliates in Pakistan, as of 7 July, there had been around 60 accidents in the country’s mines, killing more than 90 workers and severely injuring around 40. Workers are killed by underground explosions, methane gas poisoning, suffocation or mine walls collapsing due to lax safety procedures and the unavailability of the first line of treatment at mining sites.

Since several mines in the country are unlicensed and illegally run. few miners are covered by national laws governing the health, safety, and welfare of mining and quarrying employees. This makes it difficult for injured workers or deceased workers’ families to claim compensation in case of an accident. The inadequate compensation and the absence of government department inspection of mines act as an incentive for employers to forego investing in safety infrastructure in mines as mandated under the law.

Sultan Khan, general secretary of IndustriALL affiliate Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, says:

“The unregulated mining industry and the lack of implementation of existing laws kill miners every day. The government must commit to strictly enforcing the existing policies related to mining, and register all miners under social security schemes. We also demand that mine owners should maintain an attendance register of workers going underground.”

Nine coal miners, including a twelve-year-old boy, were killed on 6 July after rains inundated Pakistan's Sindh province's coal mine. The rainwater had accumulated 50 to 60 feet inside the mine when about 40 workers were engaged in mining work.

Despite heavy rainfall causing havoc throughout the country, coal mining has continued in Pakistan, worsening already bad working conditions. Surging food and fuel prices force miners to continue working in such hazardous conditions. There is also an increased pressure on miners in Pakistan to increase output as the country is facing an energy crisis due to a shortage of foreign reserves to purchase natural gas or oil from the international market to run its power plants. Instead, Pakistan has to rely on domestic coal production and coal imports.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary, says:

“The working conditions in mining sites in Pakistan are appalling. Employers must ensure that safety protocols are implemented in mines. IndustriALL calls upon the government of Pakistan to ratify the ILO Safety and Health in Mines Convention 176 and stop the killing of mineworkers."