QUETTA: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern over the alarming frequency in coal mining deaths and injuries in coal mines of Balochistan and recommended that the number of trained government safety inspectors and frequency of their inspections should be increased to maintain safety standards and reduce the number of mining accidents

The Vice Chairperson of the HRCP, Habib Tahir, presented the fact-finding report titled, ‘Beneath the surface, rights violations in Balochistan’s mines’, at a press conference here on Thursday.

Advocate Fareed Shahwani, Behram Baloch and other HRCP members were present on the occasion.

The report is based on field visits and consultations with coal miners, labour unions and government departments.

In view of coal miners’ conditions and increasing deaths in the mine accidents, the HRCP expressed its serious concern and recommended various safety measures for reducing the mine incidents and improving conditions of coal miners working in the mines.

The report recommended that mine owners and contractors must ensure a functioning ambulance service with on-site emergency health workers and regular internal safety inspections at every mining site.

“Mining tunnels must be constructed in accordance with the law, and kept well ventilated to allow both the entry of clean air and to avoid methane gas build-ups. It is imperative that the federal government ratify the ILO Convention C-176 so that such minimum standards of occupational safety and health are determined and implemented,” the report said.

It said that coal miners must be registered and made eligible for EOBI Social Security and Workers’ Welfare Fund benefits. It suggested that the disparity in the treatment of migrant mine workers must be addressed as well by registering them so that they were not underpaid or denied access to healthcare and civic rights.

The report urged the government to upgrade the status of the coal-mining sector to an industry. The government must also pay closer attention to technological advancements in mining to give mine operators and owners’ incentives to upgrade from archaic and dangerous methods of mining.

Mr Tahir said that last year there were 175 mining accidents in Balochistan alone and 250 deaths across the country.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2022

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