Coal mine accidents have unfortunately become more frequent in our country. Adding to the already alarming death toll in the country’s mining industry, two more miners died and another was injured in a coal mine gas blast in the Karez Honosam area of Orakzai on Saturday.
According to data compiled by IndustriALL Global Union, unsafe mining in Pakistan claimed the lives of more than 150 workers and injured more than 20 others during the last year alone.
Most of these accidents are caused by mine collapses, gas leaks and flooding. Mining continued throughout the disastrous rains that struck the country last year, killing numerous workers.
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.
Our law requires presence of one doctor and an ambulance at every mining site, but this is not implemented.
As there are no hospitals or pharmacies for miles around the mines, workers do not get emergency care in case of an accident.
Apart from the accidental deaths, the coal miners also face serious diseases. Silicosis, lung fibrosis, lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other debilitating diseases frequently result in death or permanent disability.
It is important that the employers invest in safety infrastructure including rescue apparatus, adequate lighting, fire-fighting equipment, methane gas detection equipment, proper ventilation system as well as proper training to the miners to prevent workplace accidents.
It is also for the government to keep an eye on the coal mine operations and those not following operating procedures must be held accountable and penalized.
A mechanism needs to be developed under which periodic inspections of mining sites must be carried out to identify lapses in safety protocols.
Then, the poor families who lose their bread earners in the tragic mine accidents must be given a good compensation package.