Trapped miners

  • And a reckless disregard for human life

Coal mining is considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. It is therefore up to the company or government overseeing the project to ensure the safety of the miners who are risking their lives for an honest day’s pay. Of the 11 miners who got trapped in a mine in Quetta on Monday, one has been rescued, four bodies recovered and the rest remain trapped as the rescue operation continues. The accident occurred due to an electrical short-circuit that started a fire, which means it is purely a case of human error. Rescue efforts are halted as the fire has spread poisonous carbon monoxide gas in the mine making it highly unlikely that the remaining miners will come out alive. This is not an infrequent occurrence; according to the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (PCMLF), between 100 and 200 labourers die on average in coal mine accidents every year while the number of those facing serious injuries is much higher. The main reasons for the deaths are lack of oxygen and explosions due to methane gas, both of which are avoidable if the necessary precautions are taken. This blatant and reckless disregard for human life due to man-made disasters is not only limited to coal miners; over 150 people have lost their lives in railway accidents in the past year with the latest train collision one week ago claiming 22 lives.

A general practice is to compensate families of the deceased with a ‘death grant’, which is essentially ‘hush money’ to mourn and move on quietly. With virtually no recourse to legal action, there is rarely a case where someone is held responsible, resulting in the same people making the same mistakes without being reprimanded for criminal negligence; the cycle repeats itself, innocent lives are lost in the process. There is an urgent need to review and improve the conditions in which miners work, employ international standard safety protocols and most importantly employ competent on-site managers who are held responsible and made an example of, when such accidents take place.