Another coalmine accident

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COALMINES have become death chambers for poor miners in
our country clearly depicting minimum safety measures and obsolete mining techniques. In the latest ill-fated accident, seven coalminers were killed and three others wounded on Friday in a gas explosion in a mine in Degari coalfield, some sixty kilometres from Quetta.
The unfortunate miners were reportedly digging coal when a spark caused a blast, which closed mouth of the mine. As a portion of the mine also caved in, the miners were trapped deep inside it. Such horrific accidents resulting in death, injury and destitution to workers continue unabated but little is being done to improve working conditions for the poor miners who have been left at the mercy of fate. The fact of the matter is that despite huge deposits of minerals including coal, copper, gold and iron ore in the country especially Balochistan, our mining industry is still the most unregulated in the world as mines and their operations are not under active government supervision. Mining practices are generally outdated and operating conditions are deplorable, particularly in informal sector. This is applicable to both privately owned and state owned coalmines, whether small or medium. Apart from absence of safety measures and security precautions, basic accessories and equipment, which reduce exposure to risks, are not made available to miners. The result is that according to Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, about 100 to 200 labourers lose their lives in coalmine accidents each year.
This situation clearly warrants a course correction on part of relevant authorities. We must go beyond mere verbal promises and need to take practical steps for safety and health of miners, who because of tough working conditions are also faced with occupational respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, gastro and hepatitis besides psychological disorders. Firstly, there is need to evolve a mechanism that ensures regular and strict inspection of mines and safety standards there. These miners need to be thoroughly trained as per modern day requirements and provided with necessary gadgets including safety hats, protective clothing, respirators, ear protectors and ventilation system to stay safe. Rescue teams should also be well equipped to save lives of labourers. Given tough conditions they work in, miners should be given higher wages. Especially a handsome compensation package should be given to injured miners or families of the deceased ones. After all these miners are also humans who are greatly contributing to the economy. Their welfare and safe working environment should not be compromised.

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