COAL MINE BLAST – PILER concerned over lack of occupational health and safety policy

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KARACHI – The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) has expressed concern over an explosion due to accumulation of methane gas at the Sorange coal mine in Balochistan, resulting in the death of 45 of the 52 miners working at the mine at the time of the explosion. In a statement issued on Monday, PILER Executive Director Karamat Ali expressed serious concern over the absence of an effective occupational health and safety policy in the country, resulting in deaths of and injuries to a large number of workers in industries, particularly at coal mines. Ali demanded the government to provide immediate and adequate compensation to the families of the victims of the mine blast.
He pointed out that the tragic incident had taken place at a mine owned by the State-run Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation and was leased to a private contractor. The death toll was high due to unavailability of appropriate machinery for the rescuers. Before the government’s rescue teams reached the spot, local workers and volunteers recovered seven bodies from the debris.
According to reports, the blast at the coalmine occurred at 1:30 AM, whereas the rescue operation commenced at 7:00 AM. Located about 35 kilometres away from the provincial capital, Quetta, the mine was already declared dangerous a fortnight ago because of excessive accumulation of methane gas. This shows a criminal negligence on the part of the government department concerned that allowed restarting the mine in the presence of such a warning. Such explosions are quite common at coal mines in Pakistan, most of which are located in Balochistan and Sindh, where carelessness in safety measures prevails.
Labour and trade organisations have repeatedly been demanding the government to formulate special laws to ensure providing occupational health and safety facilities for the workers at dangerous work sites like coal mines, but the government has not given any important to such demands so far. It is a known fact that many developing countries like Pakistan have very low standards for mine safety, especially at the coal mines where human lives are often lost. It is a criminal negligence on the part of the State that such fatal accidents caused by methane gas explosions happen quite frequently.