Coal mines in Balochistan out of bounds to inspection teams
QUETTA: Rising number of deaths in mining accidents in Balochistan highlights the low level of safety in the province’s coal mines, many of which are unregistered and out of bounds to officials of the Inspectorate of Mines.
In the last one week, three coal mine accidents were reported in Balochistan in which eight labourers lost their lives. Four miners died after a coal mine in Surinjk area filled with anti-toxic gas that caused blast last week, while one miner died in Dukki on Tuesday.
Talking with reference to the latest incidents, Coal Mine Federation President Bakht Nawab said mines in the province lacked proper safety arrangements.
“Eighty coal miners die in Balochistan every year,” Nawab said. “However, [political] influence of the coal mine owners prevents government officials from examining workplace safety situation at the mines many of which are not even registered,” he added.
Lala Jan, a coal miner, held the ‘contractor system responsible for mining incidents, saying that owners give mines to contractors who do not even discuss safety measures for the labourers.
“Though the Inspectorate of Mines is responsible for ensuring safety of miners, ironically many coal mines have turned into no-go areas and the government officials can’t even visit them and check their safety procurements,” Jan added.
The mineral-rich Balochistan has the largest mining industry and coal is retrieved from Quetta, Dukki, Harnai and Loralai areas of the province.
Chief Inspector Mines Iftikhar Ahmed, however, claimed that coal mine accidents occurred due to labourers negligence and sense of hurry.
“First the workers should inspect the mine and then start digging but unfortunately they bypass the inspection criterion and dig deep inside coal mines, causing accidents,” he added.
According to Ahmed, inspectors are presents in all coal mining sites across the province and actions are taken against mine which do not adopt safety measure, “Court of Inquiry has been ordered into Surinjk mine incident and investigation would be carried out into all coal mining incidents,” he added.
Majority of the labourers who died in the latest accidents hailed from Khyber-Pakhunkhwa and Afghanistan and were working in the mines on very low wages.