Employed under hazardous and unsafe conditions, at least 90 workers have lost their lives in 60 mine-related accidents this year, according to the Pakistan Central Mines Labor Federation.
The deaths of the vulnerable workers continued this year even after the workers’ union reported 176 deaths in 2021. Pakistani unions, emphasizing the deteriorating plight of workers, have also stressed that they are continuously discouraged from demanding better mining policies.
Pakistan’s unregulated coal mining industry, intertwined with the government’s apathy and criminal negligence, is proving deadly for thousands of workers employed across 250 mines.
The primary causes of workplace death for these mine workers include exposure to poisonous methane gas, frequent underground explosions due to lax safety procedures which cause suffocation and the collapse of mine walls, and the lack of immediate first aid at the mining sites.
On July 6, at least nine coal miners died in an accident that was triggered by the heavy rain. As per reports, the rainwater accumulated nearly 60 feet inside the mine trapping several workers, including a 12-year-old.
Global IndustriALL reported on July 12 that a large number of mines in the country are “unlicensed and illegally run”. There are only about 186 registered mines that are covered by national laws governing the health, safety, and welfare of mining and quarrying employees, making compensation for deceased workers difficult. The number of unregistered, illegal mines is estimated to be in the hundreds.
The President of the Pakistan Central Mines Labor Federation, Sultan Khan, noted that the unregulated mining industry and the lack of implementation of existing laws has been responsible for killing miners on a daily basis. “The government must commit to strictly enforcing the existing policies related to mining, and register all miners under social security schemes,” Khan stated. “We also demand that mine owners should maintain an attendance register of workers going underground.”