Three coal miners killed in Orakzai mine blast

At least three coal miners, including two brothers, were killed and eleven others were injured in an explosion inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s dilapidated Orakzai mine on Sunday

August 26, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
At least three coal miners, including two brothers, were killed and eleven others were injured in an explosion inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's dilapidated Orakzai mine on Sunday

At least three coal miners, including two brothers, were killed while 11 others were injured in an explosion in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Orakzai mine on Sunday, August 23. The miners, hailing from Shangla district, were identified as Umar Zaman, Haji Mohammad and his brother Ibrar.

Coal miners losing lives in explosions inside mines has become a common occurrence in Pakistan. The mine lease owners, along with authorities, continue to pressurize thousands of vulnerable miners to work without proper safety measures. Workers also accuse the mine owners of forcing them to work for over 10 hours a day without adequate safety gear.

Locals in the Orakzai’s Boya area, including human rights activists, blamed the mine owner, the contractor and the managers for the incident. According to the miners, Orakzai mine, located approximately 135-kms from Peshawar city, was being operated by the owners despite being in a dilapidated condition. The chief minister of the state, Mahmood Khan, has also called for action against the mine owners and contractors.

Abid Yaar, president of the coal mine workers rights association, told Voice of Pakistan that the coal miners get exploited even beyond mine-related incidents as they are not safe at their workplace in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because of local disputes. Mine owners often clash violently with their rivals. According to Yaar, the colliers take their revenge on the poor miners as there are many disputed mines being run by contractors and some are also being run illegally, without the government’s permission.

As many as 100,000 workers are employed in 400 coal mines in Pakistan, as per the coal mine workers rights association’s estimates. According to the union, miners in Pakistan usually begin work at the age of 13 and by the age of 30 they are forced into unemployment due to chronic respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, loss of eyesight, and other injuries related to mining work.

Over 430 coal mine workers have lost their lives in the past ten years. These figures are believed to be conservative in estimation considering many coal-related incidents and deaths remain unreported.

Last year alone, more than 120 coal workers died in coal-mine related incidents, as per Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (PCMLF). Mine-related accidents kill between 100 to 200 laborers every year.

Coal mining is considered to be more hazardous than hard rock mining. The nature of the rock strata, leakage or explosion of poisonous gases and coal dust, collapsing of mine stops, as well as mechanical errors from improper use and malfunctioning of mining equipment.