YET another accident caused by a methane gas explosion has been reported from the dangerous coal mines of Balochistan. Eight miners suffered serious burns when an explosion occurred in a private coal mine in the Dukki area. A portion of the mine collapsed, trapping the workers before they were rescued and taken to the district hospital. The injured miners were incredibly lucky to have escaped with their lives. Only last month, at least 13 coal miners were burnt to death under similar circumstances when trapped methane gas exploded inside coal mines in Harnai district and the Marwar area in Bolan district. Meanwhile, in February last year, four workers were killed in a landslide in the Dukki mines. The frequency of deadly accidents in the country’s coal mines can be gauged by the fact that last year there were at least 72 deadly incidents reported from Balochistan that claimed the lives of 100 colliers.

It is deeply unfortunate that despite the heavy casualty rate in the country’s coal-mining sector, the deaths of poor workers seldom makes headlines. The colliers venture hundreds of feet deep inside the mines without any safety gear except for helmets and torches. They do not receive any prior training to overcome the extreme hazards of their occupation. It is only when an accident occurs that the government is stirred into action — only to come up with the lame excuse that it doesn’t have enough resources to ensure the regular inspection of the mines or provide proper safety equipment. This perilous sector is responsible for many deaths that could have been prevented. Safety precautions including protective gadgets can save lives. However, the apathy demonstrated by both provincial and national authorities in building the capacities of the mining department, hiring more mines inspectors and penalising mine owners who do not ensure the safety of their employees is beyond comprehension. Prompt measures are needed to ensure that safety procedures are followed in the coal mines to prevent further injuries and loss of life.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2021

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