Precarious miners

Coal mining is among the most dangerous occupations in the world due to high risk of accidents and fatalities

December 02, 2022

Coal mining has always been considered among the most dangerous occupations in the world due to high susceptibility of accidents and fatalities. However, many countries have been able to improve conditions by setting in place strong precautionary and safety measures. Pakistan, despite having a huge mineral resource potential, has lagged behind at this. As a result, mining accidents have become common. Just recently, nine labourers were killed while four others were injured in an explosion at a coal mine in Orakzai tribal region’s Doli area.

Preliminary reports indicate that the explosion was set off due to gas sparks some 2,500 feet below ground level. Rescue officials did rush to the scene to free the trapped labourers and provide medical attention to the injured, but this reactionary approach will not help decrease the frequency of such fatal accidents. The unregulated nature of the mining sector is the result of weak organisational structures, legislative gaps, lack of implementation, insufficient investment, and inadequate of technology. To put it simply, health and safety standards are just not up to par, putting at risk vulnerable miners and families that depend on them. According to ILO, 318 miners died in mining related accidents from 2010 to 2018. While no current data exists, it is expected that these numbers have and will continue to increase as experts foresee a surge in mining activity in the future to meet energy demands. This is where the job of policymakers becomes crucial for reviewing and assessing current legislation and measures in order to ascertain important areas of focus.

The primary concern is of course the lives of labourers who should be provided with a basic protection kit at the least. Instead we see miners working without so much as a mask. The provincial labour department needs to spring into action and initiate necessary change to prevent the loss of innocent lives.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2022.

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