QUETTA: The mine owner has been booked for alleged negligence a day after 11 coal miners died after inhaling methane gas while working in his mine.

The case registered on the complaint of the Balochistan government also booked officials over their failure to ensure the miner’s compliance with safety standards.

All 11 miners, including a coal company manager and a contractor, lost their lives after methane gas accumulated at a depth of around 1,500 feet deep inside the mine in the Sanjdi coal mine field area.

Their bodies were retrieved by rescue workers last night and dispatched to their native villages in Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

HRCP condemns hazardous work conditions for labourers

According to the official, eight victims belonged to one village of Shangla.

This was the second major coal mine accident in Balochistan this year after 12 miners lost their lives in a gas explosion in the Harnai coal mine field area on March 19.

Balochistan government spokesman Shahid Rind confirmed that the Mines and Minerals Department had written a letter to the local police station to register the case against the mine owner.

Meanwhile, Balochistan Minister for Mines and Minerals Mir Shoaib Nosherwani lamented that mine owners had repeatedly been directed to ensure safe working conditions for miners.

They had also been ordered to install gas meters to check the accumulation of poisonous gases inside the mines, the minister said, while deploring that the owners did not pay heed to the warning, which led to the colossal loss of life.

HRCP’s condemnation

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly condemned the lack of implementation of occupational health and safety protocols in coal mines of Balochistan.

HRCP said even though the mine has been sealed and an investigation ordered, the persistent nature of these incidents cannot be ignored any longer.

The commission referred to its fact-finding report on rights violations in Balochistan’s coal mines, which use archaic technology and lack adequate safety equipment.

The 2022 report titled ‘Beneath the surface: Rights violations in Balochistan’s coal mines’ said the lack of oxygen, collapse of mine roofs or walls, and methane build-up and explosions result in the deaths of 100 to 200 miners “in avoidable accidents” every year, with many more accidents going unreported.

The report decried infrequent mine inspections, which urgently needed to be addressed to improve hazardous work conditions.

It also demanded criminal trials of mine owners and contractors who fail to maintain adequate safety standards as mandated by the law.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

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