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PILER concerned about lack of occupational health and safety in coal mines in Pakistan

compensation demanded for families of dead miners in Balochistan mine blast

by PILER, 22 March 2011

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Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)

PRESS RELEASE

PILER concerned about lack of occupational health and safety in coal mines; demands compensation to 45 miners died in Balochistan mine blast

KARACHI, March 21: Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) has expressed concern over loss of precision human lives due to methane gas explosion in Soranj coal mine in Balochistan, which resulted in death of 45 workers out of total 52 workers, present in the mine at the time explosion.

In a statement issued here Monday the Executive Director of PILER Karamat Ali expressed serious concern over absence of an effective occupational health and safety policy in the country, which has [been] resulting in deaths and injuries to a large number of workers in industries particularly in coal mines.

He demanded the government to provide adequate and immediate compensation to the families of deceased and a sustainable support to the children.

Ali pointed out that tragic incident happened in the mine owned by the state-run Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation and was leased to a private contractor. The death toll remained high due to non-availability of rescue machinery with the concerned rescue departments. Before the government rescue teams reach on the spot, initially local workers and volunteers recovered seven bodies from the debris.

According to reports the blast in the coalmine occurred at 1:30am, while the rescue operation was launched at 7:00am after several hours of the tragic incident. Because of the delay, all the miners may have lost their lives and there was a little chance of survival of others.

Located about 35 km away from the provincial capital, Quetta the mine was already declared as dangers two weeks ago because of an excessive accumulation of methane gas. Even some reports mentioned that the provincial mines rescue department had previously ordered to close the mine. This shows a criminal negligence on the part of the concerned government departments that allowed restarting of the mine in presence of such warnings.

Such explosions are quite common in the coal mines in Pakistan, most of which are located in Baluchistan and Sindh, where safety lax safety measures always prevail. Time and again labour and trade organizations have been demanding the government for formulating special laws to ensure provision of occupational health and safety facilities for workers at the dangerous work places like coal mines, but the government has not given any important to such demands.

It is a known fact that many developing countries like Pakistan have very low standards of mine safety especially in their coal mines where often human lives are lost. It is a criminal negligence on part of the state that such fatal accidents caused by methane gas explosion happen very frequently.